The sharp recovery in the UK laying flock took a stumble during the summer, delaying the return to a more balanced egg market.

Day-old pullet placings were down by 210,000 in July compared with a year earlier.

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This was the most significant monthly decline for a year and a half.

Chick numbers recovered again in August, with year-on-year growth of 280,000, so the laying flock grew by just 70,000 over the two months.

In the previous six months, from January to June, pullet placings had been up by a cumulative 2.2m compared with the first half of last year, which is a much faster average expansion of 370,000 birds a month.

Latest placings

By the time the latest placings reach point-of-lay in January, the flock is set to be 2.5 million birds greater than at its low point in March this year; but still three million smaller than its typical size in the two years leading up to the invasion of Ukraine.

It’s worth noting that this July-August were the last months to hatch birds that would reach point-of-lay, and then complete a full year in lay, before the supermarkets’ planned removal of colony eggs from their shelves in January 2025, so perhaps a stumble over future stocking intentions could be expected.

There will still be plenty of colony eggs heading for foodservice and manufacturing after the 2025 deadline, but birds placed for supermarket contracts from now on should, in theory, be non-colony.

Summer trade

During the late summer, the UK market came under pressure from surplus ‘vaccine’ flocks and cheap imports, reported the Central Egg Agency (CEA).

Wholesale colony prices softened as a result, and are still down on July levels, by up to 25p/doz for Mediums, for example.

The trade is only now picking up again for the usual end-of-holiday upturn.

“It has been a little bit quiet through July and August, and most of September,” said CEA’s Andy Crossland.

“We are just starting to see a bit of a lift in retails now.”

“Free range has gone quite tight, with a lot of packers looking to buy off the market.”