The National Farmers Union has warned farmers that supermarket shelves could be packed with cartons of Polish eggs as retailers turn to foreign suppliers in the face of escalating food prices.
Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, said: “I speak to retailers who are saying we will be importing more Polish eggs which are produced to lower standards, so we really need to be focusing on and planning for the next year.
“All the retailers that haven’t made strong commitments to British sourcing will be looking abroad. We must allow British farmers to be competitive with their EU partners.”
A recent survey suggested that more than 70% of British egg producers would leave the sector if payments do not go up.
It comes amid mounting pressure on ministers to publish a long-awaited white paper on the UK’s food strategy, which is expected to lay out plans for how Britain can produce more of its own food and ease reliance on imports.
Farmers are calling for statutory commitments from the Government on growing the UK’s self-sufficiency.
Egg producers have been some of the sharpest critics of recent government decisions, with one leading industry chief earlier this month accusing ministers of wasting an opportunity from Brexit to apply more controls on the eggs coming into the country.
Britain has historically been able to produce almost all the eggs sold in UK supermarkets.
However, the latest figures from the EU suggested more eggs were starting to be exported to the UK. The UK imported 1,438 tons of whole eggs from the EU in the year to January 2022, up 31% on pre-pandemic levels.
Industry sources said retailers were looking at their supply chains for later on this year, amid signs that there could be fewer British eggs available if cost increases continue as they are.
Robert Gooch, chief executive of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association, said there were currently no issues with the availability of UK products.
“We have warned that unless free range and organic farmers are paid a fair price they will quit the industry and this will cause egg shortages – possibly as early as this winter,” Mr Gooch said.
“Retailers will no doubt be making contingency plans.”