Farm gate prices for eggs increased significantly in the first three months of this year, according to the latest government figures.
New quarterly egg statistics released by Defra show that prices paid to producers for their eggs increased by more than 9% in the first quarter of 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.
Prices were also significantly higher than in the final quarter of 2019.
The average farm gate price for a dozen free range eggs was 86.5p in the period from January to March this year compared with 79.2p in the first three months of 2019 and 81.4p in the final quarter of 2019.
This represents an increase of 9.2 percent year-on-year and 6.3 percent on the previous quarter.
Prices have continued to rise since the end of March, with the spread of Covid-19 leading to panic buying and a surge in demand for eggs.
Noble Foods, Stonegate, Oakland and Fridays have all introduced price rises in recent weeks.
As we reported last month, Central Egg Agency said it had been struggling to meet demand for eggs from retailers, following the panic buying that started to take off in mid-March.
"We have had every major packer in the country on looking for free range," said Andy Crossland, trading manager at the Central Egg Agency.
"There are buyers ringing packers that don't supply them and offering the earth but the egg is just not there."
Mr Crossland said the demand was impacting on prices: "Obviously prices go up when you have a tight market, although there is a level to what people will purchase.
"Packers are pinned in contracts. Whether they can use this to their advantage we will see.
"We are seeing £1.40 for large free range at the moment; £1.20 for mediums - but that is if you can get them."
The latest Defra figures show that prices for cage eggs were also up in the first quarter of the year. The average farm gate price for a dozen cage eggs was 56.4p in the period from January to March.
This was an increase of 9.09% on the average price of 51.7p in the first quarter of 2019, although it was no higher than the average price paid in the final three months of 2019.
Last year the expansion of free range production resulted in depressed prices, although Defra figures suggested that they recovered slightly towards the end of the year.
The farm gate price for free range eggs was down by 1.8% over 2019, according to the statistics - from an average 81.8p per dozen in 2018 to 80.3p per dozen last year.
However, the average price recovered to 81.5p in the fourth quarter of 2019 - still down on the average price across 2018 but up on the 80.2p average recorded in the third quarter of 2019.
Defra has just released the first estimate of total income from farming in the UK in 2019, and the report shows that, whilst the value of eggs rose by £18m (2.9%) to £660m and volume was up by 3.8%, price dropped by 0.9%.
First estimate of total factor productivity of the UK agricultural industry for 2019 shows productivity for egg production was up by 3.8 percent.
Defra's latest egg statistics show that supplies of free range eggs were down slightly in the first quarter of the year - a factor which may have amplified the tightness of the market as the coronavirus crisis hit.
The figures show that 4m cases of free range eggs passed through UK packing stations in the period from January to March this year - down from 4.1m in the same period in 2019.
The number was also down on the 4.1 million cases in the final quarter of last year.
Some 3.33 million cases of cage eggs were handled by packing stations in the first quarter compared with 3.40 million in Q1 2019 and 3.30 in Q4 2019.
Organic egg numbers continue to increase - a total of 254,000 cases in the first three months of this year compared with 238,000 cases at the same time last year and 247,000 cases in the pervious quarter.
And barn egg supplies are still increasing as the industry moves towards retail commitments to go cage-free by 2025.
Some 197,000 cases were packed in the first quarter compared with 136,000 in the first quarter of 2019 and 157,00 in the fourth quarter of 2019.
In all, 7.8 million cases of eggs were packed in UK egg packing stations during the first quarter of 2020. This represented a 1% decrease on the first quarter in 2019 and a 0.2% decrease on quarter four 2019.
The number of eggs bought by UK egg processors in Q1 2020 amounted to 1,078,000 cases (equating to 23.7 thousand tonnes) - an increase of 7.1% on the same period in 2019.
Liquid egg accounted for 68% of the total production in the first three months of the year. Total production was up 5.6% in Q1 2020 compared to the same quarter last year.