Farmers fear that supermarkets are turning to eggs from Poland

·2-min read
eggs farming cost of living - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
eggs farming cost of living - ANDY RAIN/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

Farmers have warned that supermarket shelves could be packed with cartons of Polish eggs as retailers turn to foreign suppliers in the face of escalating food prices.

Britain's egg farmers are wrangling with soaring costs, which have gone up by almost a third since the start of the year, sparking pressure on supermarkets to pay them more for their produce.

However, supermarkets have promised to keep prices down and are reluctant to increase their costs.

Minette Batters, president of the National Farmers Union, warned there was a risk that more shops could start sourcing from overseas.

She said: "I speak to retailers who are saying we will be importing more Polish eggs which are produced to lower standards, so we really need to be focusing on and planning for the next year. All the retailers that haven't made strong commitments to British sourcing will be looking abroad. We must allow British farmers to be competitive with their EU partners."

A recent survey suggested that more than 70pc of British egg producers would leave the sector if payments do not go up.

It comes amid mounting pressure on ministers to publish a long-awaited white paper on the UK's food strategy, which is expected to lay out plans for how Britain can produce more of its own food and ease reliance on imports.

Farmers are calling for statutory commitments from the Government on growing the UK's self-sufficiency.

Egg producers have been some of the sharpest critics of recent government decisions, with one leading industry chief earlier this month accusing ministers of wasting an opportunity from Brexit to apply more controls on the eggs coming into the country.

Elwyn Griffiths of Oakland Farm Eggs said: "It looks at the moment that the UK Government will use this [country] as a dumping ground for cheap food from all over the world."

Britain has historically been able to produce almost all the eggs sold in UK supermarkets.

However, the latest figures from the EU suggested more eggs were starting to be exported to the UK. The UK imported 1,438 tons of whole eggs from the EU in the year to January 2022, up 31pc on pre-pandemic levels.

Industry sources said retailers were looking at their supply chains for later on this year, amid signs that there could be fewer British eggs available if cost increases continue as they are.

Robert Gooch, chief executive of the British Free Range Egg Producers Association, said there were currently no issues with the availability of UK products, but "we have warned that unless free range and organic farmers are paid a fair price they will quit the industry and this will cause egg shortages - possibly as early as this winter. Retailers will no doubt be making contingency plans."