Farmers are warning too small a percentage of the price increases introduced across the egg category in recent weeks are being passed on to hard-up producers.
Egg prices have been rising steadily in the major supermarkets over the past two months, with data from Assosia showing there were a total of 241 price increases and just three price cuts across the big four, Waitrose, Lidl and Aldi between 21 March and 4 July, with many lines seeing multiple rises.
Notable increases within this period included a 30.3% hike in a 6-pack of Merevale British Free Range eggs in Aldi, a 27.5% increase a large Morrisons British Free Range 6-pack and a 25% hike in a Big and Free 6-pack in the same retailer.
And in total, some 53 out of the 177 fresh egg SKUs sold across the selected retailers saw price increases of between 10% and 30% within this time period.
But despite the price hikes, the British Free Range Egg Producers’ Association this week warned supermarkets and egg buyers were not doing enough to ensure in-store price inflation was being passed on to egg producers.
The latest data seen by BFREPA showed shoppers were paying about 20p more for a dozen free range eggs than they did in this time last year. However, farmers were only receiving an extra 4p (or about 20%) of those rises, said the trade body’s CEO Robert Gooch, who added the figure was also way short of the 40p/dozen increase BFREPA has been campaigning for to tackle soaring on-farm costs.
Without such a move on prices, many egg producers were planning on pausing egg production or leaving the industry, leading to fears of a shortage of British eggs in six-to-nine months, Gooch said – repeating warnings already voiced on several occasions this year.
“We welcome the small rise in egg prices in supermarkets but it needs to go further and the money needs to make its way to farmers, not into the pockets of the supermarkets and the egg packers,” he urged.
“Not one retailer has done what was asked and increased egg prices by 40p. Only then will many producers be able to break even.”
Farmers would not be able to “continue producing free range eggs at a loss and the last thing the British public wants to see is a watering down of its excellent animal welfare and food safety standards – but that is exactly what is coming as a shortage of British eggs on the shelves hurtles towards us”, he warned.
“Retailers will likely make up the shortfall with imports from countries which don’t adhere to the same high welfare and safety standards we have here in the UK.”
Gooch’s comments were echoed by Rebecca Tonks, CEO of Cornwall-based producer St Ewe, who said retail buyers had been “slow” in putting up prices and recognising the challenges faced by many producers, in the face of soaring feed costs and other input inflation.
“We’ve actually done it the other way round by putting our prices up and then going to the retailers and asking for price increases,” she added. “We felt our producers needed that instant help.”
St Ewe had been working closely with its feed supplier to reflect back to supermarket buyers “and give them as much information as possible” on feed price increases.
Some were now “listening and much more receptive” to on-farm challenges.
But despite this improvement, many of St Ewe’s producers were now on a “knife-edge” financially, Tonks warned, and were considering leaving the sector.