Egg production in the UK is still heading upwards, but it still has a long way to go.
Latest figures for pullet chick placings show a continued year-on-year rise for the ninth consecutive month. This increase in bird numbers is now starting to have a significant impact on the size of the flock.
See also: Poultry feed prices level off after drop
Day-old pullet numbers in May itself were up by 400,000 on a year earlier; while over the latest six-month period, total pullets were up by 1.4 million on the same time a year ago.
Projecting forwards to when these latest birds come into lay, it means that by October the UK flock can be expected to have increased by around 1.5m on its recent low point, which was only reached in February/March this year.
But even by the autumn, the likely flock at around 33.8m will still be some 3.5m below the size it was in February last year, before the invasion of Ukraine, which initiated the latest rapid rise in costs, and led to sharper cut-backs in production.
However, the higher placings seen to date are unlikely to ease the stresses on the egg trade in the near future, believes the Central Egg Agency.
Although trading conditions had eased a little in recent weeks, the supply shortage was likely to return in the autumn, said Andy Crossland at the CEA.
At the end of June, the CEA lowered wholesale prices on colony by 30p/ doz on the top three sizes, although there was little corresponding change for free range.
This was put down to pressure from imports, plus the arrival of surplus eggs from flocks supplying vaccine companies.
“There’s also a seasonality about it. It’s never busy in May, June or July anyway,” said CEA’s Andy Crossland. “The retail sector, and wholesale as well, is just that bit quieter. The weather’s been warm, and consumption is down.
“In the autumn, I’ve got the feeling it will be just as tight, certainly on the free-range side.”
The increase in supply was down to colony production, said Mr Crossland.
“There’s a bit more colony coming through in the next few months, but there’s not much happening on the free-range front. Very few planning applications are going through.”