British free range and organic egg farmers are considering a mass exodus from the industry after major supermarkets refused to help them cover spiralling feed and energy costs.
New data shows scores of farms are considering stopping production at the end of their current flock – a decision which could remove hundreds of millions of eggs from retail shelves every year.
Egg producers have been hit with huge hikes in production costs. Feeding hens is now 50% more expensive and energy prices have risen 40%. Spending on fuel has grown by 30%, while labour and packaging also costs more than it did six months ago.
But despite warnings and pleas for help from the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA), the UK’s biggest supermarkets have yet to increase the price of free range and organic eggs to a level where many farms can break even.
BFREPA surveyed egg producers last week and found that 51% of farmers are seriously considering stopping production until the price they are paid improves. A further 18% said they will make their decisions at the end of their current flock. More than 70% said they would leave egg production within a year if a price rise wasn’t forthcoming.
Robert Gooch, chief executive of BFREPA, said: “There are clear and obvious cost increases being heaped upon farmers, and retailers simply aren’t sufficiently adjusting the retail price. Any increases being made are too little and too slow. They are suffocating businesses.
“This is nothing more than supermarkets putting cheap food marketing tactics above the needs of the primary producer.”
Mr Gooch continued: “We’ve asked every major retailer to increase the price of free range eggs by at least 40p per dozen – organic eggs need an increase closer to 80p per dozen. Only two retailers had the decency to acknowledge our request, and not one has done enough to meet the additional costs of producing eggs during this crisis.
“Many of my members are losing money on every egg laid, and our data shows that even those who are making a small profit do not see a long-term future. The appetite for eggs from the public is extraordinary, but I’m afraid we will see shortages of British free range and organic eggs on the shelves before long.”
Mr Gooch said that BFREPA asked Tesco, Asda, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Aldi, Lidl, Marks and Spencer, and Waitrose for help – without success – and that they are the only ones in the supply chain who can make a difference.
The organisation has called a Crisis Summit at the British Pig and Poultry Fair on Tuesday, May 10, and has invited representatives from each retailer to attend to discuss how to resolve the issue.
BFREPA’s survey of member intentions suggests that 51% of farms are considering not restocking. The national free range and organic flock stands at about 27.7 million, producing more than 8.5 billion eggs a year.