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Background

Market prices: Poor weather drives prices

Wholesale egg prices made further gains last month, shrugging off the high level of chick placings, the post–Christmas doldrums, and the reappearance of imports from Europe after the Fipronil crisis.

The extreme weather in the first week of March sharpened an already strong market, and both colony and free range sectors remained “very tight”, said the Central Egg Agency.

Prices for colony eggs were up 5p/doz on all sizes except small, while free range were up 10p/doz across the board.

“It’s been a very busy time, and retails have been very strong,” said CEA’s Andy Crossland. “There’s not much being offered on either colony or free range.”

RETAIL PRICES FOR EGGS (Top 3 supermarkets)

The weather had given things a boost, leading to a degree of panic buying with subsequent shelf filling.

“Some packers are reporting retail orders as large as in Christmas week.”

After quite a few birds had been taken out over Christmas, egg supplies had fallen back, he said. “There have been quite a few packers looking for egg (as well as the usual wholesalers).”

Although pullet chick placings are still setting records, Mr Crossland questioned whether supplies into the shell egg market were quite so high.

Packing station supplies

“Several large producers are undergoing conversion to barn, and there are a number of flocks out that will stay out for quite a period.” Others had switched into supplying the processing trade.

According to projections from chick placings, from this month onwards the first-year laying flock will rise to all-time highs of around 37m by June (see chart below), and evidence for this is now emerging.

“We are just starting to see more smalls coming through on both colony and free range,” said Mr Crossland, “so perhaps things might start to ease once we get beyond Easter and into May/June.”

Another factor moving forward was egg imports starting to arrive from Europe, with significant shipments from Poland.

“They’ve got over their problems, and at least there’s now some continental egg to help out, whereas before we weren’t getting much from anywhere.”

Ken Randall

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