Major shortage of eggs in 2012, says report

Many smaller cage egg producers are planning to exit the industry at the end of 2011, effectively putting the cage egg sector into fewer hands, according to a report drawn up by ADAS.

Commissioned by DEFRA, the report written by Jason Gittins feeds back the sector’s comments and concerns aired at a series of meetings in the UK funded by the government department. And the overriding message was “unless the timescales in the legislation are changed, there will be a major shortage of eggs in 2012”.

There are a number of reasons for the feared shortage, the first being “that the predicted growth of the free-range market share of 50-55% by 2012 is over optimistic. There will be greater demand for eggs from colony systems after 2012, than is currently predicted.”

Therefore, the industry will need to create more than the predicted 10 million bird-places in enriched colonies. This may prove difficult when considering that “many delegates indicated that they were unlikely to continue in egg production post 2012.”

Even if free-range growth does reach this level, there are still concerns as “some producers questioned whether banks would be willing to lend money” and if so, “it will prove impossible to borrow all the money needed for re-investment within the next three years and a longer period is needed,” said the report.

Then there is the concerns over manufacturers being able to make the equipment in time. “Even if manufacturers could make the equipment, there will not be enough skilled people to carry out the installations within the timescale.”

One way to avoid any damaging egg shortage was to delay the ban. The report indicates that some producers felt a delay was justified by the three year delay in the publication of the Commission Report. Many businesses had held off investment in enriched cages until the publication of the report over fears that enriched cages would also be banned.