aitrose has committed a £2.6 million investment in its egg suppliers as it remains one of the few supermarkets not to impose purchase limits on customers.
Marks & Spencer and Morrisons are the latest grocers to join Tesco, Asda and Lidl in rationing box sales as the fallout from rising costs and bird flu continue to take their toll.
However, Waitrose said it has no plans to introduce such limits, adding that it is confident it has “a wide availability of UK free range eggs for sale both online and in our stores”.
Sainsbury’s and the Co-op have not introduced limits either, with the Co-op saying it will continue to monitor the situation.
Paying our farmers fairly and offering our customers free range English eggs are obligations we simply will not sacrifice
Waitrose said the £2.6m investment will go directly to farmers to support them with rising production costs, such as energy and chicken feed.
James Bailey, Executive Director of Waitrose, said: “We cannot function as a business without our farmers. We’ve built long-standing relationships with our suppliers, and paying our farmers fairly and offering our customers free-range English eggs are commitments we simply won’t sacrifice, even when the going gets tough.
“We still have a good supply of 100% UK free range eggs, which we believe is partly a testament to these strong relationships and our commitment to our farmers.
“With shortages elsewhere in the market, we have seen a slight increase in demand, but we are working hard to ensure we continue to have quality products with high welfare on our shelves.”
Earlier this month, Asda and Lidl announced limits on egg purchases in some of their stores, followed by Tesco, M&S and Morrisons in recent days.
The UK is facing its biggest avian flu ever, exacerbating existing deficits caused by producers scaling back production or leaving the industry over higher costs, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine driving up farmers’ energy bills along with the cost of chicken feed. chickens and packaging.
We recommend that customers buy only what they need so that stock returns to normal as soon as possible
Demand for eggs has also increased as consumers look for cheaper sources of protein to offset rising food bills.
M&S, which has been limiting customers to two cartons since Friday, said: “As a private label retailer, we benefit from direct and long-standing relationships with our trusted suppliers and work hard with them to ensure good availability of UK free-range eggs for our customers.
“We have provided additional support, including for animal nutrition, to help suppliers manage rising costs.
“While we have a good range of UK free range eggs, given the recent spike in demand we are limiting eggs to a maximum of two packs per customer. This is to ensure fair availability for all customers and the signage is now in store.”
A Morrisons spokeswoman said: “At the end of last week we saw unprecedented demand for our eggs and are now introducing a two-pack cap. We recommend that customers buy only what they need so that stock returns to normal as soon as possible.
“All the eggs we sell are British and the vast majority come from our own egg packing site in North Yorkshire.”
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has called for an “urgent investigation” into the disruption of the egg supply chain.
The NFU said the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) should investigate whether a statement 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 stressed that the UK food supply chain is “resilient” and no “significant impact” is generally expected.
Richard Crampton, Director of Fresh Foods at Sainsbury’s, said: “We understand that farmers who supply our egg packers also face significant challenges and it is clear that this will affect the number of eggs they can produce.
“To support them, we have increased the amount we pay our packers for eggs over the past 12 months, while at the same time continuing to focus on keeping prices low for customers.
“In response to high inflation in June, we accelerated our support, increasing the amount we pay for eggs by 20% and last week we further doubled this investment and paid an additional 20%.
“This brings the total we’ve increased over the last 12 months by about 40%.”
Matt Hood, Managing Director of Co-op Food, said: “We are all aware of the challenges farmers face and the last 12 months have seen some of the most turbulent suppliers we have seen.
“Co-op is committed to continuing to support UK egg suppliers and has pledged a new multi-million pound support package to bolster our assistance, bringing our total additional investment to over £5.6m.
“We will continue to work with our supplier and farmers to build an efficient, effective and sustainable UK egg supply chain for now and into the future.”