Retailers accused of failing UK farmers with imported eggs

Poultry producers have accused retailers of failing to back British farming by choosing to import more eggs rather than paying them fairer prices.

Several major retailers including Asda, Tesco, Lidl and Sainsbury’s issued warnings about rationing the number of packs of eggs consumers can buy, suggesting avian flu was responsible. Asda said customers would be limited to two boxes of eggs until further notice.

One Twitter user posted a photo of a dozen Italian Class A mixed size barn eggs being sold at a Sainsbury’s store for £1.35.

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Welsh egg producer Ioan Humphreys took to Instagram to accuse retailers of failing to back British farmers.

“We have the infrastructure in the UK to be producing these eggs. Because we are not getting paid a fair price, we are leaving sheds empty,” he said.

“All the supermarkets have to do is pay a fair price to the British farmers and the British farmers will produce British eggs. All we want is a fair price so we’re not going into debt by producing eggs.

“We just want to cover our costs. But no, we’re not going to pay British farmers more, we’re going to import Italian eggs.”

Mr Humphreys said every supermarket displays banners, saying “backing British farming”.

But he said: “What a load of rubbish. You are not supporting British farming one bit. You are squeezing British farmers out of business.”

Avian flu claims ‘a red herring’

NFU Scotland (NFUS) said retailer claims that supply shortages were due to the current avian flu outbreak were a “red herring”.

The union said the failure of retailers to recognise “exceptional increases” in costs across the industry and deliver a fair price to producers had caused many to reduce their bird numbers to control their costs.

NFUS’ Poultry Working Group chairman Robert Thompson said an avian flu outbreak is devastating for any egg producer and the threat of the disease still “hangs over the industry”.

He described the overall impact of the disease on UK egg production to date has been small, insisting retailer claims it is behind the shortages was “completely disingenuous”.

Soaring costs

Mr Thompson said retailers were informed in the spring that soaring costs in feed, packaging and electricity demanded an immediate increase in prices paid to farmers, if they were to continue to keep birds.

Shop shelf prices for eggs increased, but the proportion of the price increase paid back to producers did not cover costs, he added.

“The biggest driver behind falling egg production is a crisis of confidence,” said Mr Thompson.

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson said: “Currently, supermarkets are experiencing some supply challenges with eggs.

“At Sainsbury’s, we are committed to sourcing British as much as possible and continue to work hard with our suppliers across the UK to ensure customers can buy what they need.

“To help maintain availability, we are also temporarily sourcing some eggs from Italy, which will be clearly labelled on the packaging.”