The bid by Somerfield to fill the gap in its free-range egg supplies by importing 40% from France is working, said the company last month.

“We are receiving sufficient [eggs] to meet the shortfall in supplies of British eggs and to meet customer demand,” egg buyer Marc Matthews told Poultry World three weeks into the operation.

“This is a short-term fix and our intention is to get back up to 100% British as soon as possible. We have not had any adverse customer feedback. Stores are displaying the point-of-sale notices where French eggs are on sale.”

In answer to the charge by UK producers that Somerfield had gone to France for cheap eggs he said: “We have been forced into this situation and we are keen to hear from other UK suppliers/farmers who can provide us with the kind of volumes and continuity of supply we require to meet customer demand.”

Four weeks after French free-range eggs started to appear in 40% of Somerfield stores, a telephone survey of the five major supermarkets revealed that just one of the top five, other than Somerfield, felt there was a need to import free range at this time.