Businesses and individuals involved in free-range and organic egg production have been urged to sign a new Egg Pledge.
The initiative, launched by the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (Bfrepa) at its annual meeting in Birmingham, aims to unite the sector behind a commitment to work together for a better, more sustainable future.
It follows calls for retailers at the Pig and Poultry Fair in May to pay producers an additional 40p/dozen due to the escalating feed, fuel and other inflationary rises. Producers have been paid an extra 9p/dozen but are still losing just under 31p/dozen, according to Bfrepa chief executive, Robert Gooch.
Latest costings from consultants ADAS show that free-range egg producers are losing up to £8.63 per hen based on an average sales price of 101.10p/dozen. Feed costs are currently 76.63p/dozen with producers facing a loss of 11.97p/dozen excluding depreciation and finance.
Gooch said that the average producer with 32,000 free-range birds was therefore losing around £250,000, which was unsustainable.
Part of this loss was down to the reduction in consumer purchasing of free-range eggs post the Covid-19 pandemic lock-downs when people were eating more eggs at home. Retail sales values have fallen by 9.4% in the 52 weeks to 7 August, although consumption is still higher than pre-Covid levels.
The current over-supply meant there was less pressure on retailers and the situation was not being helped, he acknowledged, by planning applications in the pipeline for additional sheds, particularly in Northern Ireland where applications for 414,000 birds were pending. Hen numbers are currently at 26.5 million – short of the 29 million shed capacity.
Bfrepa will be approaching all packers, retailers, food businesses and politicians to ask for their support: “It is imperative farmers can continue to produce a high-quality, high-welfare, nutritious and versatile protein for consumers, which is why we’re asking for the public and industry’s support.”
Ivory Arden of the Chirpy Egg Company, which has 128,000 birds on 4 sites employing 10 part-time staff, said it was time for the industry – retailers, packers and farmers – to work more closely together to help the sector thrive.