FREE-range egg prices have now started to follow colony prices downwards in the wholesale market, but this trend may not continue for long.

The intense shortage of home-produced eggs on the UK market overall has started to ease over the summer.

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However, the expected recovery in demand as autumn arrives could soon see the return of difficult trading conditions.

To date, the recent upturn in day-old pullet placings has fallen far short of what is needed to return the trade to its normal balance.

The latest chick placings figures show another year-on-year increase, with the likelihood that by November the laying flock will be 1.5m birds larger than it is currently, but still down by 3m compared with November 2021.

Free-range capacity

With the egg sector fast approaching the supermarkets’ deadline for discontinuing colony, more free-range capacity will be needed, but the development of new units remains stalled mainly due to concerns about current profitability, costs of borrowing, and the hazards of AI.

With retail continuing to take priority for Lion egg supplies, the shortages are biting hardest on the food service and processing markets, especially through the wholesale trade.

Wholesale prices have fluctuated over the past few weeks but have shown little overall change for colony eggs.

Wholesale

Free range prices at wholesale have lately dropped about 10-20p/doz overall as supplies have relaxed a little.

However, they are still nearly £1/doz more than a year ago.

According to Andy Crossland at the Central Egg Agency, there have been a few more free-range eggs available in recent weeks: “In fairness, there’s not a great deal of either UK colony or free range.

“But there has been a lot of seasonality about it, as demand tends to be a little bit lower at this time of year, and we’ve seen a lot of imports on the wholesale market,” said Mr Crossland.

“But as we get into September and the autumn, that will soon disappear. You can see it changing pretty rapidly.”