UK

Background

Markets: Free range flocks soften market

With the traditional summer doldrums in the egg trade still some way off, a softening of the market has already set in early as it comes under pressure from a wave of new flocks.

Wholesale prices have dipped across the board with free range the hardest hit, showing falls of up to 20p/doz.

Meanwhile Colony prices are down by 8-10p/doz.

The trade is now entering a period when the size of the UK laying flock, although not set to rise further until at least September, is nevertheless running at a record high.

Also, there has been a fundamental shift in the balance of the market over recent months.

Free range output in the UK has risen sharply since the end of last year, opening up a substantial gap on the colony sector, which has correspondingly dropped away, as the chart on this page reveals.

This combination of factors has led to the general erosion of wholesale prices, particularly for the smaller sizes as the new flocks come through.

“There seems to be a bit of an imbalance at retail,” said Andy Crossland at the Central Egg Agency.

“With a lot of new flocks coming through at the moment, there is a surplus of medium free range. We may have a month or 2 of having quite a bit of medium around. There is also more and more egg available in general.”

One of the problems with the greater part of production now in free range, he said, was that there was no ready wholesale market for the free range sector to act as a safety valve when under pressure from supplies.

“We tend to trade free range either packer to packer, or into processing, while wholesale tends to function on the cheapest egg available, whether UK or continental.”

Ken Randall

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