NFU demands investigation into the egg supply chain amid national crisis

As UK egg producers continue to face the threat of going out of business, the NFU is calling for Defra to urgently look into whether an “exceptional market conditions” declaration should be made under section 20 of the Agriculture Act 2020.

Such a declaration would give Defra the power to send a much-needed lifeline to the egg sector and help replenish supplies on supermarket shelves.

Input costs for British egg producers have risen considerably since 2019, largely due to a 90% rise in the cost of animal feed ingredients as measured by the NFU feed raw materials index. This doesn’t include the manufacturing cost of feed, which is heavily dependent on energy.

In contrast, packer to producer egg prices have only risen by 35% on average as measured by Defra. Therefore, there is a clear gap to be closed before the stability of the egg supply chain can be reinstated.

NFU president Minette Batters said the union has been warning of the current crisis for some time: “There are a huge range of issues facing the poultry sector, in particular within the egg supply chain, which have built up over months (…). Energy price inflation and supply chain disruption have added to the worst outbreak in avian influenza yet.”

However, these pressures still cannot explain why British eggs have been in short supply on supermarket shelves, Ms Batters said.

“The NFU raised concerns about the functionality of the supply chain with Defra a number of months ago in the hope of avoiding the situation we have now, with some retailers having to limit UK consumers’ access to eggs. This is surely a prima facie case of severe disturbance to an agricultural market.

“It is critical that Defra acts now to investigate the issues in the egg supply chain so that any declaration under section 20 can be made as soon as possible,” Ms Batters stressed.

“Poultry and egg producers must have the confidence they need, working within a fair and transparent supply chain, with fair returns for farmers, so they can do what they do best; meet demand from shoppers for quality British eggs and poultry meat,” she concluded.

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