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Strong market shows no sign of abating

Wholesale egg prices in the UK have soared to fresh highs this month with the squeeze on EU egg supplies intensifying.

Earlier fears of over production this autumn, as the UK flock continues to expand, have evaporated in the wake of the shortages caused by the Fipronil scandal.

“There’s very, very little eggs out there at the moment,” said Andy Crossland at the Central Egg Agency.

The market was already going seasonally short due to the approach of Christmas, he said.

“Packers are reporting very good retail sales at the moment and with the problems across Europe there’s been nothing to import to satisfy demand.”

Colony prices are showing the biggest gains, with PW’s indexed price for large now at 147 (see chart opposite page). This is the highest price recorded for 5 years, and has “long gone past” the level of retail prices, said Mr Crossland.

As a result, wholesalers were not just finding it difficult to obtain supplies, but also finding it difficult to sell them, with small users starting to buy from cash and carries, and low end discount retailers.

Higher demand has also been coming from processing: “Due to the food scares over there, a lot of UK retailers have demanded UK-produced eggs from their food manufacturers.”

Processing demand is also adding strength to the free-range sector, where wholesale prices have hit their highest levels for 3 years, despite the continued expansion in the sector.

“Many of us thought that this autumn would have been a weak time for free range with the amount of birds coming through, but the demand from processors has helped to take anything surplus off the market, and the prices have improved as well.”

All this will help to manage a new surge in UK output, which saw day-old pullet placings rise by 10% and 12% in August and September, compared with the same months last year.

This will bring the size of the UK laying flock back to its record level by February, barring the adoption of any early-depletion programmes post-Christmas, which currently seems unlikely.

Ken Randall

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