Supermarket giants Asda and Lidl limit egg sales amid supply disruption

16 November 2022, 20:46

Supermarket giants Asda and Lidl limit egg sales amid supply disruption
Supermarket giants Asda and Lidl limit egg sales amid supply disruption. Picture: LBC / Alamy

By Tim Dodd

Asda and Lidl are limiting how many boxes of eggs customers, as supplies are hit by disruptions caused by bird flu and rising costs.

Asda is limiting egg sales to two boxes of each and while Lidl is restricting customers in some stores to three boxes.

Waitrose said it had not introduced any curbs on sales, but was “continuing to monitor customer demand”.

Other major retailers including Morrisons, Marks & Spencer, Co-op and Tesco have reassured shoppers that they were not limiting sales and continued to receive good supplies.

The shortages come as the UK faces its largest ever bout of bird flu, with a highly pathogenic variant of the virus circulating.

Birdkeepers have had to keep their animals housed and separate from other animals to reduce the spread since early November.

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In the event of a confirmed outbreak on an egg or poultry farm, all the birds in the area affected are killed, resulting in fewer eggs to send to supermarkets.

There are already shortages caused by producers reducing their output or leaving the industry entirely due to increased costs, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushing up farmers’ energy bills and the cost of hens, packaging and chicken feed.

At the same time demand for eggs is up, with consumers seeking out cheaper ways to get protein in their diets as food bills soar.

An Asda spokesman said: “We are working hard with our suppliers to resolve the industry challenges which are currently affecting all supermarkets, and to make sure as many customers as possible can buy eggs we have introduced a temporary limit of two boxes per customer.”

The British Retail Consortium (BRC), which represents supermarkets, said bird flu was causing some disruption to supply.

The BRC’s director of food and sustainability, Andrew Opie, said: “While avian flu has disrupted the supply of some egg ranges, retailers are experts at managing supply chains and are working hard to minimise impact on customers.

“Some stores have introduced temporary limits on the number of boxes customers can buy to ensure availability for everyone.

“Furthermore, retailers have long-standing, established relationships with their suppliers and know how important maintaining these are for their customers and businesses.

“Supermarkets source the vast majority of their food from the UK and know they need to pay a sustainable price to egg farmers but are constrained by how much additional cost they can pass onto consumers during a cost-of-living crisis.”

The British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) said avian flu has compounded availability issues, with the disease resulting in the compulsory culling of hundreds of thousands of egg-laying hens across colony, barn and free-range systems.

There were approximately 36.7 million egg-laying birds in the national flock, but there was capacity on farms for more than 44 million hens.

However, the association has also been raising concerns about retailers failing to pay farmers a fair price for months.

Figures revealed that the average price of a dozen eggs has risen by about 50p in supermarkets but some farmers had only seen a rise of between 5p and 10p.

In March, the association called on all retailers to raise the price paid to farmers by 40p per dozen.

On Wednesday, it said it had asked Sainsbury’s for an urgent meeting after the retailer confirmed it was stocking eggs imported from Italy.

BFREPA chief executive Robert 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.”

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