Retailers face egg shortages unless prices rise, sector warns

BFREPA says the UK's supermarket chains will have to pay more for eggs or producers will either go bust or not restock
BFREPA says the UK's supermarket chains will have to pay more for eggs or producers will either go bust or not restock

Supermarkets will face egg shortages by the end of the year unless they engage constructively on egg prices, the sector has warned.

The British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) said retailers would have to pay more for eggs or producers would either go bust or not restock.

It made the warning after eight of the UK's largest supermarkets snubbed the ‘Breaking Point Summit’ at last month’s Pig and Poultry Show,

At the summit, ADAS presented a paper which showed how margins had deteriorated for producers over the last year as production costs exceeded egg sales.

(Source: ADAS)
(Source: ADAS)

In its own research, retail magazine The Grocer found there had been 180 price increases across the free-range and organic egg category in the leading multiples since 21 March, compared with just 16 over the same period last year.

The hikes ranged from 3P to 15p and were applied to six, 10 and 12-egg packs. However, The Grocer did not comment on whether those increases had been passed down to producers.

Soaring feed costs are tipping free-range producers over the financial edge, with BFREPA research last month revealing that 51% of its members would leave egg production within a year if prices and feed costs remained as they were.

Industry data recently published in industry magazine The Ranger shows that the number of free range hens housed in May has already dropped time by around 500,000 hens to under 26 million.

(Source: ADAS)
(Source: ADAS)

BFREPA invited buyers from the retailers to the summit on the first day of the Pig and Poultry Show to hear "what actions they are taking to support egg farmers".

However "predictably" the summit was met with a no-show from buyers, prompting it to "empty chair" its missing delegates with cardboard cut outs.

BFREPA CEO Robert Gooch said: "Of the eight invited, Tesco and Morrisons had already met with us to explain how they felt they protected their producers with feed tracker contracts.

“Waitrose and Lidl also responded to BFREPA’s letters, but Sainsbury's, Asda, Aldi and M&S declined to engage at all”, he added.

When asked to comment at the summit on the cost crisis facing producers, no retailer representative came forward.

Some others attending, mainly producers and packers, debated the value of feed trackers and the introduction of cost plus contracts.

“Feed trackers were a start, but did not reflect other rising farm costs”, Mr Gooch suggested. And until retailers treated their egg producers in the same way they did milk suppliers, by "taking responsibility for what happens down the supply chain" the current range of egg supply agreements will perpetuate the endless boom and bust cycles in the sector, he argued.

BFREPA called for 40p per dozen retail price hike on free-range eggs and an 8op increase on organic eggs to be passed down the chain to help producers.

"Without change in how producers are paid, we will see boom and bust every few years, and that will lead to a shortage of supply next year with retail prices going through the roof," he told The Grocer magazine.

“A small rise now will negate a bigger spike next year”.