Leading egg packers should take responsibility to ensure the current boom in the free-range egg market does not turn to bust.

Addressing the recent South West Chicken Association annual conference in Devon, egg producer/packer Dan Wood of Blackacre Farm Eggs said prices had improved significantly since the ban on conventional cages came in at the start of the year.

“We’re seeing a really tight market,” he said. “We’ve probably still got an oversupply of free-range egg, but because the cage market is under supplied there is a lot of cascading, taking up those surpluses.

“It has allowed us to go to the retailers and put prices up a bit.”

But where the market would go from here depended on controlling the supply of free-range eggs.

“It is not something I can do,” said Mr Wood. “It will depend on the big boys – the Nobles, the Stonegates – saying ‘hold on a minute, we can’t take on too many contracts, we’ve got to be careful, otherwise we’re going to crash the market’.

“Providing that happens, things should be fairly good. We can’t see it getting bad for another 18 months or so, but there is a possibility, depending on how it is run by the big boys.”

Blackacre Farm Eggs was relatively well insulated, having its own brand, sold to more than 600 local retailers. “We paddle our own canoe,” said Mr Wood. “We are developing the business, building the brand, constantly trying to get our face out in the marketplace.”