Asda and Lidl are restricting the sale of eggs per customer and other supermarkets have said they are monitoring deliveries as egg farmers grapple with rising costs and bird flu
Shoppers have been told not to panic after supermarkets began rationing purchases of eggs as farmers grapple with rising costs and the impact of bird flu.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said retailers are working with suppliers to address the situation, with some importing small numbers of eggs to boost supply, but there was no cause for concern.
Andrew Opie, Director of Food and Sustainability at the BRC, said: “While bird flu has disrupted supply of some ranges of eggs, retailers are experts at managing supply chains and are working hard to minimize the impact on customers.
“Some stores have implemented temporary limits on the number of cases customers can purchase to ensure availability for everyone.”
The rationing was only intended to smooth demand and it was unlikely that many households would need more than three cases of eggs at a time, the BRC added.
Poultry farmers in the UK are struggling with soaring energy, fuel, feed and packaging prices, now exacerbated by the pressures from avian influenza.
Some farmers have either reduced production or stopped it altogether.
Supermarket chain Asda, which says it sources its eggs from the UK, has started restricting egg purchases, imposing a limit of two cartons of eggs per customer across all tiers and ranges.
An Asda spokesman said I: “We are working hard with our suppliers to solve the industry challenges that are currently affecting all supermarkets and to ensure that as many customers as possible can buy eggs, we have introduced a temporary limit of two cartons per customer. “
Lidl has also introduced a limit on egg purchases, limiting customers to three cartons in some stores.
While Tesco confirmed it currently has good availability of eggs and no restrictions on purchases, it is working with suppliers to ensure it can meet demand.
Waitrose said it offers British eggs to its customers and has not introduced any purchase limits at the moment but is “continuing to monitor customer demand”.
Facing some ‘supply problems’, Sainsbury’s approved supermarkets temporarily sourced some eggs from Italy as they made a long-term commitment to only stock caged eggs.
A spokesman for Sainsbury’s said: “At the moment supermarkets are having some egg supply problems.
“At Sainsbury’s we are committed to sourcing as much as possible from the UK and continue to work hard with our suppliers across the UK to ensure customers can buy what they need.
“In order to maintain availability, we are also temporarily sourcing some eggs from Italy, which will be clearly identified on the packaging.”
The British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) has written to Sainsbury’s asking for an urgent meeting after the retailer confirmed it was importing from Italy.
Robert Gooch, chief executive of BREFA, said he was not surprised by the development, following his warnings in March that the country faces a shortage of British eggs by Christmas unless farmers are paid a sustainable price.
“We have been warning for months that not paying farmers a price that allows them to turn a profit would result in mass destocking or, worse, an exodus from the industry,” he said. “Seeing Italian eggs on the shelves is a wake-up call to all retailers that they cannot expect farmers to work for free. Enough is enough.”
BFREPA data has revealed that the average price of a dozen eggs in supermarkets has risen by around 50p this year, but some farmers have only seen the price rise between 5p and 10p.
The association said avian flu has exacerbated the problem of egg availability, with the disease leading to the forced culling of hundreds of thousands of laying hens in colonies, barns and free range systems.
The UK is facing its biggest outbreak of avian influenza ever and on 7 November England introduced a mandatory containment order for all poultry and captive birds to keep them away from infected wild birds.
If an outbreak is confirmed on a poultry or egg farm, all birds in the affected area will be destroyed, meaning fewer eggs in the supply chain.
The British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) said a reduction in the number of colony hens as retailers move to cage-free and strong consumer demand are also factors in supply difficulties.