Egg prices could rise for UK consumers as farmers reduce flock numbers | Eggs

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Consumers could be hit by rising egg prices as UK farmers reduce their flock numbers, in response to escalating costs and tight profit margins.

The number of chicks placed by egg farmers in April has fallen by 15% year on year, according to the latest government figures.

Egg farmers have been warning for months that a ‘tidal wave’ of rising feed, energy, labor and packaging costs is not being reflected in retail prices.

They have slammed supermarkets for ignoring industry warnings, with a leading producer telling delegates at the UK Pork and Poultry Fair last week he expected more egg shortages later this year given reductions in chick placement.

Government data, released Thursday, confirms a drop in the number of producers restocking their flocks with new birds. The number of eggs laid by hatcheries fell further in April, down 35% from the previous year.

The number of chicks placed by egg producers indicates the number of eggs that will be available to consumers in the coming months.

Chicken eggs take about 21 days to hatch, but chicks don’t start laying eggs until they are about 20 weeks old. Any reduction in chicks now will not affect egg availability until the fall.

Existing hens on farms will continue to produce eggs until they are 70-80 weeks old, but the overall flock population will decrease as hens will not be replaced.

“It shows what we predicted, that there will be a shortage unless retailers respond by raising prices,” said Robert Gooch, chief executive of the British FreeRange Egg Producers Association.

Gooch says producers need a price increase of 3p per egg to prevent a much bigger price rise when supplies fall later this year. Retail egg prices in May were up around 8%, or 15p, per half dozen on a year ago, according to Trolley.co.uk, a supermarket price tracker.

“If you were making money, you wouldn’t [not restock]. You only do it because you can’t make a profit. This is a crisis for producers and it will translate into a crisis for consumers later this year,” Gooch said.

Andrew Opie, from the British Retail Consortium, said supermarkets source their supplies largely from the UK and “know they have to pay a sustainable price to farmers to ensure UK eggs stay on the shelves”.

A spokesperson for the British Egg Industry Council said chick placements have historically risen and fallen depending on factors such as how long producers decide to keep their existing hens before replacing them. “However, with the current cost crisis, some growers are choosing not to restock their homes.”

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “We recognize the challenges facing the egg industry, including the continued impact of avian flu and the increased input costs – and continue to monitor the situation, working closely with stakeholders. ”

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