We'll shell out 30pc more for eggs by Easter
THE price of eggs is set to rise by 30pc within weeks because of the effect of a EU ban on battery hens.
And the cost of other food could also begin to rise as producers are forced to pass on the increases.
Improved welfare for hens has resulted in a European shortage of eggs which is forcing up prices, the Irish Egg Association has said.
The price hike is already being felt in the baking and catering sectors and will soon make its way through to supermarket shelves, as new contracts are negotiated.
"We expect consumers will see increases of 20pc to 30pc by Easter," said Owen Brooks, secretary of the association which represents egg packers.
The average price of an egg was just 23c in 2011, so even with increases they remained a cheap source of protein, he said.
The latest inflation figures show that egg prices in shops have risen by 5pc in the past year, compared with a slight drop in general food costs.
He warned that bakers and manufacturers, who use a lot of egg, have seen much steeper increases with wholesale hikes of 50 to 60pc already which could rise to 100pc if the current shortage continues.
The EU introduced a ban on battery cages on January 1, meaning trade of eggs from poultry farms that haven't installed larger enriched cages is no longer permitted -- resulting in widespread shortages as major producers like Spain were badly hit.
The UK's manufacturing sector is finding it particularly difficult to source all the eggs it needs and the shortages are increasing demand and lifting prices even for free-range eggs that were not directly affected by the battery cage ban, Mr Brooks said.
Some 11 million eggs a week are produced in the Republic of Ireland, 60pc of which are from caged hens, though the vast majority of these units were upgraded in time to meet the new welfare standards.
Baker Dermot Walsh, of M& D Bakery, said the liquid pasteurised eggs used by industry has already become more expensive. Some bakers and food manufacturers were turning to substitutes such as milk-based protein, he said.
"I have been able to source plenty of free-range eggs around me in Waterford, so I suppose the good news is free-range sales are increasing."