Egg Producers under Threat as Soaring Cost of Feed Hits Industry

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), September 18, 2007 | Go to article overview

Egg Producers under Threat as Soaring Cost of Feed Hits Industry


Byline: By Steve Dube Western Mail

A deepening crisis faces UK egg farmers as huge rises in the price of feed creates a daily headache. Noble Foods, the UK's largest egg supplier, says egg prices will soar and farmers will go out of business as the industry approaches its peak season.

Half the cost of keeping hens is eaten up by the wheat and soya content of feed. But wheat prices have increased by more than 60% in the two months since July 2007 and more than doubled over the year. And soya prices have also risen by almost 60% in the year.

Noble Foods marketing director Finn Cottle said the next few weeks are critical as many wheat contracts are traditionally reviewed in September as the new harvest comes in.

She said the egg packing industry was worried that egg farmers will drop out of the market and turn instead to other types of farming such as arable.

"We are heading for a seasonal peak in egg demand - sales of eggs normally increase by 50% per cent in the run up to Christmas - and fulfilling that demand will become an issue," she said.

"A number of producers have already cancelled the purchase of new pullets and are leaving houses empty, threatening the supply of eggs for the winter season and Christmas. It could be the first time since the war that we are restricted in supply."

Anthony Burgess of Birchgrove Eggs near Aberystwyth, said he believed a shortage was unlikely - but eggs would certainly be more expensive.

"One year ago I was paying pounds 135-a-tonne for chicken feed, which is 75% whole wheat," said Mr Burgess.

"I'm currently paying pounds 191-a-tonne and I'm told that will go up to pounds 220 in the next few weeks.

"Every week I'm recalculating the actual cost of an egg and every week at the moment it's going up by about 5p a dozen."

Mr Burgess, UK poultry farmer of the year last year, who markets eggs from a total of 10,500 birds every day to shops and caterers throughout Wales, said customers have so far been very understanding. …

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