I think we can all agree that a review of how the UK egg supply chain operates is long overdue.
Coupled with the rising pressures because of unprecedented outbreaks of Avian Influenza over the last two years, egg producers have been battling against relentlessly high input costs.
Of course, we all look back to the outbreak of the war in Ukraine as the moment which spiked global energy prices alongside the rocketing of other input costs. However, some of the issues in the supply chain have been present way before 2022, the war just exacerbated them.
Fill in our quick online form to have your say: Egg supply chain review – have your say
Fairness for farmers
For decades now there has been a serious lack of transparency, clarity around contracts and data availability for market monitoring, all of which leaves primary producers shouldering most of the risk for what at times feels like very little reward.
But now there seems to be a renewed focus on fairness in the supply chain, thanks to over 18 months’ worth of work and campaigning by the NFU which led to the Prime Minister hosting the first ever Food Summit at Number 10 earlier this year.
Almost a year ago now we played a big part in bringing together the whole egg supply chain with the government to discuss the vital measures needed to build back resilience and improve transparency from farm to fork.
“In every conversation I have had with an egg producer, the message has been clear: risk and reward need to be spread fairly across the supply chain.”
NFU Poultry Board chair James Mottershead
It was at that roundtable meeting in London with the Farming Minister that we warned of the consequential reduction in the national flock size if action was not taken.
Crucially for the egg sector, all this lobbying work culminated in a commitment from the government to investigate the UK egg supply chain which we welcome – although granted it’s taken them longer than we would have liked to take this important action.
So here we are – Defra’s consultation has launched and is open for eight weeks. To ensure that we can make your voices heard please complete the survey below by the 11 December so that we have time to collate your views and submit our final response.
What the review needs to address
In every conversation I have had with an egg producer, the message has been clear: risk and reward need to be spread fairly across the supply chain.
If it’s not, the outcome is simple – there will be a drive towards even further contraction in the sector which fundamentally means fewer British eggs on the shelves.
As the poultry team and board continues to engage with members throughout this consultation period, we are seeking your views on how collectively we can resolve the issues we face.
Professionalism of contracts
To achieve a fair share of risk and reward, the supply chain needs to adopt a more professional approach to contracts. This doesn’t mean a one size fits all approach – there needs to be a concerted effort to vastly improve the choice of contracts that are available to producers.
Whether that’s feed price linked, cost of production modelling or bed and breakfast type agreements, producers need options so that they can choose the best contract to suit their business, and transparency to benchmark contract terms against the market.
Essentially, there has to be a mechanism for farmers to consider what the best contract is for them, processes to prevent any breaches of contract terms, and access routes to more easily raise concerns without feeling at risk of being penalised.
That is what will help to give egg producers the confidence to invest in their businesses moving forward, especially during times of volatility.
Only recently we’ve seen how these supply chain reviews by the government can lead to positive change.
In the dairy sector, new regulations are expected to come into force before the end of this year which should empower farmers’ negotiating position, helping to ensure fairer prices, transparency and accountability across the supply chain.
Meanwhile, Defra is currently developing new regulation for pig contracts and we will be keeping an eye on what this looks like when they are hopefully announced soon.
NFU working for the poultry sector
Throughout this consultation period, we want to hear from our members so that we can represent your views thoroughly in our response.
This is a chance to enact much-needed change and I urge all egg producers to take this opportunity to have your say by not only contributing to the NFU's response but also submitting your own response directly to the government.
For the poultry meat producers among us, please know that we are continuing to highlight cost of production and supply chain challenges to the government and we are calling for a roundtable meeting so that the supply chain can come together with ministers to map a way forward.
With your help, I really hope this consultation will mark the start of greater change across the supply chain. Not least because we need to know that our businesses have a viable future so that we can continue producing high quality poultry products for the nation to enjoy.