Despite pressure from rising production, the UK egg market has gained a firmer tone during the past month.
Both colony and free-range prices have improved at wholesale level, with the colony sector gaining a touch more.
At the Central Egg Agency, headline prices for Large Colony gained 8p/doz to reach their highest level since April, while Large Free-Range were up 5p/doz.
For size Medium, which had been depressed by an influx of large numbers of smaller eggs from new flocks, the recovery was more marked, with Colony gaining 23p/doz and Free Range 20p/doz.
Andy Crossland at the CEA said that in effect it was the colony sector that was lifting free range prices, with the latter sector still subject to increasing output.
The egg market is now being supported by one of the strongest trading periods of the year, in the final weeks before Christmas, which for the moment is countering the impact of the record production levels anticipated this winter.
As the chart opposite shows, the laying flock is expected to run at an all-time high from November through to February, based on projections of day-old pullet placings.
Encouragingly, the latest figures from Defra so far show no further expansion in the New Year.
It is after Christmas that the real test will come.
“There’ll be the usual tidying up to do after Christmas,” commented Mr Crossland.
“Then we will see what effect the surplus of free range is going to have.” Strangely, and contrary to the general market feedback, latest official figures on output show a decline in UK free range production in the third quarter, and an increase in colony. However, no-one really believes that anyone is investing in new colony units at present.