THIS summer, the fortunes of egg producers in the UK remain ensnared by the continuing imbalance between costs and returns.
So far, supply and demand issues have little impact on profitability, even as the size of the laying flock nosedive.
In May, placings of day-old pullets slumped again, falling by 690,000 compared with the same month a year earlier, a drop of 21%.
The industry can rarely have experienced such a sustained decline in the size of the laying flock.
Over the past five months alone, day-old pullets have dropped by 2.8m against January-May 2021, an average decline of 16.5%. Over 12 months, the fall amounts to 4.3m.
When the most recent chicks come into lay in October, the number of birds in lay (up to 52 weeks) is likely to have declined to 33.6m, down 5.5m on its peak in December 2020.
Despite these cutbacks, there were still parcels of free-range eggs coming onto the wholesale market, reported the Central Egg Agency (CEA).
At the same time, there was “still very little colony available”, said the CEA’s Andy Crossland.
As a result, colony and free-range prices have moved closer, especially on Large and Mediums.
End of summer
Generally, though, wholesale prices have made little movement over the past few months, something likely to persist now until the end of the summer.
“That is normally when we see a lift in demand, at the end of August or early September. I can’t see anything happening any different until then,” said Mr Crossland.
“Obviously, chick placings are cut-back, and more colony are set to go out over the coming months. It’s still got to find its balance, and that may take a few months yet.”