Egg producers claim they need a 30% price increase immediately, or British eggs will have to be rationed for the first time since the Second World War.

They say the cost of buying feed for hens has risen 60% since July, forcing farmers to scale back production already. "A number have already cancelled pullets and are leaving houses empty, threatening the supply of eggs for the winter season and Christmas," said Finn Cottle, marketing manager at Noble Foods. "It could be the first time since the war that we are restricted in supply."

The call comes just weeks after Tesco led the multiples in a 20p-per-dozen price increase on the shelf, equivalent to an extra 4p at the farm gate. If the full 30% increase were passed on to consumers, it would push the price of a large free-range egg from 19p to 25p.

"50p for two large free-range eggs will still deliver a protein-packed meal for one - unbeatable value," Cottle added.