Calls for urgent meeting as imports replace British eggs on Sainsbury’s shelves

BFREPA chief Robert Gooch said the development is a “wake up call” to all retailers that they can’t expect farmers to work for nothing.

Stock photo for illustration only.

Sainsbury’s has confirmed it is stocking eggs imported from Italy, according to the British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA), which is set to call for an urgent meeting with the retailer.

Despite a pledge on the retailer’s website to only stock free range eggs from UK farms, a photo of Italian eggs, reportedly on Sainsbury’s shelves, has been circulated on Twitter. The pledge on the supermarket’s website reads: ‘This year we were proud to move to offering only free range eggs in store and online, sourced from free range farms in the UK’.

Chief executive Mr Gooch said he was not surprised by the development, having warned back in March that the country would be short of British eggs by Christmas if farmers were not paid a sustainable price.

Soaring costs of production, which include chicken feed, energy, diesel, pullets and packaging, have crippled many businesses, causing farms to reduce hen numbers, pause production temporarily, or quit the industry altogether.

Avian Influenza (bird flu) has compounded the issue of egg availability, with the disease resulting in the compulsory culling of hundreds of thousands of egg-laying hens across colony, barn, and free range systems.

Sainsbury’s is quoted by The Grocer as saying that the decision to stock Italian eggs is down to concerns over British egg shortages: “To help maintain availability we are temporarily sourcing some eggs from Italy, which will be clearly labelled on the packaging,” a spokesperson said.

Mr Gooch said: “We have been warning for months that failing to pay farmers a price which allows them to make a profit would result in mass de-stocking or, worse still, an exodus from the industry.

“Seeing Italian eggs on the shelves is a wake-up call to all retailers that they can’t expect farmers to work for nothing. Enough is enough.

“I will be writing to Sainsbury’s today to ask for a meeting to discuss how we forge a more sustainable future for egg producers. Sainsbury’s has made strong commitments to British free range egg producers in the past and I hope a positive dialogue can bring about change from what is a disappointing situation.”

BFREPA data shows the average price of a dozen eggs has risen by about 50p in supermarkets, but some farmers have only seen a price rise of between five and 10p. In March, BFREPA called on all retailers to increase the price paid to farmers by 40p per dozen.

There are approximately 36.7m egg laying birds in the national flock, but there is capacity on farms for more than 44m hens.

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