Egg producers squeezed to brink of collapse

The British Free Range Egg Producers’ Association has warned of widespread business collapses, as the price paid by consumers for their eggs and the price received by farmers head in opposite directions.

“Free-range egg producers are facing a desperate situation,” said John Retson, chairman of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association. “Egg producers have seen the price they receive cut by 5p a dozen. At the same time, since the turn of the year, costs have increased by the equivalent of 15p a dozen because of world commodity prices increasing the cost of feed.”

BFREPA’s business costings indicate that producers are currently losing more than £6 on every hen, while the association’s own surveys show that the prices charged for eggs on supermarket shelves have increased.

A dozen medium free-range eggs cost £2.72 at Asda in May last year. In May this year they were selling for £2.87. At Tesco, the price of a dozen medium free-range eggs has similarly increased from £2.72 to £2.87 over the same period of time.

“It is very frustrating when you see reports in newspapers and on television news saying that consumers are having to pay more. Those consumers should know that the extra they are paying is not reaching the egg producers because we are making very big losses. Something has to change or we will see a great many people going bust,” said Mr Retson, who has contacted national newspapers to explain the situation.

Free-range egg producers are being told that there are simply too many eggs on the market at the moment, and the packers’ organisation, NEMAL, has warned that this position could continue into next year.

However, chick placements have been falling – something that will eventually reduce the size of the national layer flock – and the EU conventional cage ban is just on the horizon. How many eggs that will remove from the market is unclear, but BFREPA fears a UK shortage of eggs if too many free-range producers are forced out of the industry because of their current losses.

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