The cost of a cooked British breakfast is about to surge as price inflation grips the animal feed industry and threatens to create shortages of food staples, such as eggs as well as soaring bacon, dairy and bread prices.
The inflationary spiral in wheat, which last month forced up the price of a British loaf, is creating havoc in the farmyard. A leading UK egg producer, Noble Foods, yesterday gave warning that farmers were quitting the egg business, unable to afford the cost of feeding hens.
Noble, which supplies about 40 per cent of the UK market, said that a number of its producers were cancelling orders for chicks to be raised ahead of the Christmas laying season, raising the prospect of egg shortages for the first time since the Second World War.
“Farmers are deciding not to buy pullets. There could be shortages in the market in the weeks leading up to Christmas,” said Finn Cottle, marketing director.
Egg consumption rises by 50 per cent in the run-up to Christmas, as families have more cooked breakfasts in winter and bake cakes.
The cost of animal feed, mainly wheat and soya, represents half the cost of keeping hens and those ingredients have doubled in price over the past year. Pig farmers are also feeling the effect of soaring commodity prices and are demanding stiff price increases for pork.
According to the British Pig Executive, farmers are getting £1.10 per kilo for pigs that cost £1.44 to produce, a loss about £23 per pig. To make up the deficit, the organisation representing British pig farmers reckons that a typical packet of bacon needs to increase by 13p in supermarkets.
Climate convulsions, politics and changing diets around the world are raising the cost of the staples of a British shopping basket. The price of a bushel of wheat has more than doubled on world markets in a year, rising at an alarming speed over the past month.
The grain price is setting records every week just as egg farmers enter contracts for animal feed, typically renewed in September. If the business of producing eggs is to get back on an even keel, farm gate prices must rise by 25 per cent, says Noble. That translates into an extra 20p on six free range eggs on a supermarket shelf.
Without the prospect of price increases, egg farmers may choose to put their money elsewhere, such as in arable farming, where profits are soaring.
Tom Vesey, chairman of the British Free Range Egg Producers’ Association, said: “They are hesitating about committing to their next flock, which means that further down the line we will have a shortage of free range eggs.”
Expensive wheat is affecting livestock farmers worldwide and last month forced mass-market bakers in the UK to raise the price of a standard loaf by 8p. Associated British Foods, which owns Allied Bakeries, gave warning last week that the increase was insufficient and analysts are expecting further increases to take the cheapest loaf well above £1.
Dairy farmers are also feeling the impact of feed costs. The price of skimmed milk powder has doubled on world markets and in the UK dairies are extracting higher prices from supermarkets as they suffer milk shortages due to the early summer flooding. Supermarkets are trying to absorb the price increases and, according to the Milk Development Council, the stores are selling butter to shoppers at less than cost.
First Milk, a leading farm cooperative, declared force majeure at the end of last month, warning customers that milk supplies would be falling 5 per cent short in its second such warning this summe