The steady progression in tightening UK egg production is readily visible in the latest Ministry of Agriculture moving annual totals for packing station throughput. The July figure puts annual output at 23 million cases ­ and although the rate of decline has slowed down during the summer, a shortage of English eggs, particularly Lion eggs is developing. "There has been a shortfall developing over the last few months, which has been made up with imports," a wholesaler told The Grocer. Packer to producer prices have firmed as a result, with 0.5p per dozen rise in the weighted average for August. Free range producer prices have fallen back fractionally, but cage eggs are firming. The arrival of new birds coming into lay can be seen in the relatively big 1.8p per dozen rise in producer prices for very large, compared to 0.4p per dozen for mediums and 0.3p for smalls. The fall in UK production has visibly started to pull in imports, which are heading for wholesalers' warehouses and processors. The volume of eggs that processors are taking remains equivalent to just under a fifth of UK egg production, but since March import volumes have soared by over 40,000 cases a month, year on year. Output volumes of egg products have remained stable, as have egg product imports, equivalent to 1.5 million cases a year. While sterling remains strong against the euro, imported shell eggs will be a viable option for the crackers, but everyone else is praying for exchange rates to drop. {{PROVISIONS }}