food shortage egg bare shelves
© Reach Plc
A bare egg shelf in Aldi in Hartlepool
The UK is experiencing a shortage of eggs and the situation is only getting worse, it has been claimed. Shoppers are already seeing empty shelves as avian flu continues to hit the 'broken' egg market.


Comment: As we'll see further below this is only part of the story, because, according to one egg farmer, supermarkets are refusing to pay the production price for eggs - which have been hit by soaring feed and fuel costs - and, in turn, farmers can't afford to sell them without making a loss.


Signs seen in Sainsbury's and Wetherspoons report supply problems, and some shoppers in Aldi have also struggled to pick up their favourite dozen. According to two suppliers, the shortage stretches up and down the country.

John Moore, from Knowl End Farm, in Todmorden, said: "There are massive issues. There is a very big shortage of eggs and supermarkets and suppliers are short of eggs which is forcing the price up and up and up. The cost of an egg is twice what it was six months ago and it will continue to rise. It will get to a point where people stop using eggs."


Comment: It has been noted elsewhere that the price of eggs is particularly volatile even at the best of times, however economies are evidently struggling a whole variety of issues which, taken together, reveals that these are unprecedented times, and it may be that the egg price and shortage is yet another of the early warning signs.


Defra insisted there is no "immediate threat" to the food supply chain, including eggs. And are "confident that our networks are strong enough to ensure that this will continue." The British Egg Industry Council said it is not aware of any shortages in retail or the wholesale market. But added it can "fluctuate in terms of supply and demand, and availability is fairly tight at the present time".


Comment: The conflicting information given by these otherwise well funded and well connected industry bodies should be a cause for concern.



But Helen Watts, from Freshfield Farm Eggs, which supplies wholesalers, said avian flu has "affected supplies as a lot of birds have had to be culled" and the situation had been getting "gradually worse". She added: "There is a shortage - it's generally across the country."

Mr Moore also said a third of turkeys due to go on Christmas dinner plates have been culled. And he warned: "The costs to the country - the price of turkey - is going to be through the roof at Christmas, unnecessarily adding to the cost-of-living crisis we are currently involved in."

Around 48 million birds have reportedly been culled in the UK and EU as a result of the largest outbreak of avian flu on record. And from Monday, all UK bird keepers must house their chickens until further notice.

Coupled with spiralling feed and energy costs, many producers are being pushed to breaking point. And with a predicted "mass ­exodus" of fed-up farmers, the industry is facing a potential crisis and, for shoppers, the potential for more empty shelves.


Agricultural and environmental consultancy company ADAS put the average cost of a flock of 32,000 hens at £1.24million, with average revenue from egg sales only bringing £921,000. The British Free Range Egg Producers ­Association says this "unsustainability" has led to some producers being forced to quit.

A spokesperson for the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) said: "Suggestions of egg shortages would not come as a surprise to BFREPA, although we are yet to independently substantiate the anecdotal reports we are hearing. We warned 10 months ago that producers would pause or halt production if they weren't paid a fair price for their product, and that the knock-on effect would be fewer hens and fewer eggs."

And CEO Robert Gooch said: "We know the cost of living went up 10.1% in the 12 months to September, and rising food prices was the key contributor. Farmers have seen small rises in the price they are paid for their eggs, but it's nowhere near enough for their businesses to be sustainable. We need the whole industry to collaborate and try and fix this broken market."


National Farmers' Union poultry board chair James Mottershead said avian influenza is continuing to devastate poultry businesses. And they have told Defra the number of healthy and suspected birds calculated for compensation purposes should be made at the point of disease confirmation.

"If the calculation does not take place at this point there is a risk that previously healthy birds will become infected before government culling begins, particularly where there is a delay to culling.," he said. "As a result, producers may not be fully compensated for the losses of those birds.

"We are seeking urgent clarification from Defra as to how its latest policy change will resolve the issues which members are facing. At a time when poultry producers are already struggling with skyrocketing production costs, it's imperative that this issue is urgently addressed to protect the future of the poultry sector and ensure a secure supply of quality, affordable poultry meat and eggs in the future."


A Defra spokesperson said they understand the difficulties avian flu is causing farmers. "That's why we've announced a package of support including quicker compensation payments, as well as stepping up biosecurity rules to minimise the risk of the disease spreading," they added.

Supermarkets Aldi, Sainsbury's, Asda, Tesco and Lidl as well as pub chain Wetherspoons were contacted for comment about the reported supply issues.