Tesco limits egg purchases amid supply disruption

National shortage mainly blamed on country facing its largest ever bout of bird flu

Tesco is limiting the number of eggs shoppers can buy in one go.. PA
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Tesco has become the latest supermarket to limit the number of boxes of eggs customers can buy as the effect of rising costs and bird flu continue to take their toll.

A temporary buying limit of three boxes for each customer has been brought in as a precautionary measure by the popular shopping chain.

Asda and Lidl announced limits on eggs at some of their shops this month.

The National Farmers’ Union has called for an “urgent investigation” into the egg supply disruption.

The NFU said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs should look into whether a declaration should be made under the Agriculture Act 2020 to ensure “much-needed support” for egg producers.

The government said the situation is being monitored but insisted the UK’s food supply chain was “resilient” and that no great harm was expected overall.

“We understand the difficulties that rising costs combined with the bird flu outbreak are causing for farmers and we are working with industry to monitor the egg market," a department representative said.

“The UK’s food supply chain is resilient. There are 38 million laying hens across the country and we are not expecting any significant impact to the overall supply.”

A Tesco shop's egg section in a central London shop. PA

The NFU said a declaration under section 20 of the Agriculture Act “would enable Defra [the department] to use its statutory powers to provide much-needed support to egg producers whose livelihoods are under threat”.

The union’s president, Minette Batters, said it was “critical” that the government acted now to give producers “the confidence they need”.

“There are a huge range of issues facing the poultry sector, in particular within the egg supply chain, which have built up over months and which we have been warning of for some time," Ms Batters said.

"Energy price inflation and supply chain disruption have added to the worst outbreak in avian Influenza yet.

"However, these pressures alone cannot explain empty shelves.

“The NFU raised concerns about the functionality of the supply chain with Defra a number of months ago in the hope of avoiding the situation we have now, with some retailers having to limit UK consumers’ access to eggs.

"This is surely a prima facie case of severe disturbance to an agricultural market.

“It is critical that Defra acts now to investigate the issues in the egg supply chain so that any declaration under section 20 can be made as soon as possible.

“Poultry and egg producers must have the confidence they need, working within a fair and transparent supply chain, with fair returns for farmers, so they can do what they do best; meet demand from shoppers for quality British eggs and poultry meat.”

The UK is dealing with its largest ever bout of bird flu.

This is compounding shortages caused by producers cutting back on output or leaving the industry due to increased costs, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine driving up farmers’ energy bills along with the cost of chicken feed, hens and packaging.

Demand for eggs is also up as consumers seek cheaper sources of protein to offset soaring food bills.

Updated: November 21, 2022, 11:05 PM