Competitiveness of the UK egg sector (2018)

Published on
December 6, 2019

An economic research report commissioned by the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) and conducted by Wageningen Economic Research has analysed the competitiveness of the UK egg sector for 2018. The production costs for eggs and egg products are calculated for the UK and several EU and non-EU countries using data from the year 2018.

The report analyses the impact of reducing or removing import levies on the competitiveness of the UK egg sector, for both shell eggs and whole egg powder. For shell eggs it is not expected that the import from non-EU countries to the UK will be substantial. However, for whole egg powder severe competition from third countries can be expected with reduced or non-existent tariffs on imports.

Difference in shell and processed eggs

Across the UK/EU, conventional ('battery') cages were banned in 2012 by European Union Council Directive 1999/74/EC and have been replaced by larger 'enriched' colony cages. While major supermarkets in the UK have committed to only selling shell eggs produced to high animal welfare and environmental standards, this does not cover processed eggs that are used in many foods products and in the food service industry.

Legislation in UK compared to other countries

UK farmers must comply with legislation on food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection, which together account for 16% of the cost of producing a kilogramme of eggs at farm level. The report reveals that in the USA, Argentina, India and Ukraine there is no national legislation governing laying hen welfare and these countries use the conventional cage method of production, with a space allowance per bird much lower than the UK/EU standard of 750 cm/bird.

Import levies

The report has looked at several scenarios that considers different rates of import levies (tariffs), and potential currency devaluation of the pound sterling, and found that:

  • Current UK/EU import levies on whole egg powder provide protection for the UK and EU egg sector.
  • In a scenario with 50% lower import levies, Ukraine and the USA have a lower offer price of whole egg powder compared to the UK.
  • In a scenario with 50% lower import levies combined with a 10% lower exchange rate, all non-EU countries have a considerably lower offer price of whole egg powder compared to the UK egg sector.
  • In a 'worst case scenario' of no import levies and a 10% devaluation of the exchange rates for the non-EU currencies, offer prices in Birmingham were estimated to be 21% (Argentina) to 31% (Ukraine) and 32% (USA) below the offer price from UK producers.
  • As a result, all non-EU countries would be very competitive suppliers of whole egg powder to the UK market. Large volumes of whole egg powder can be expected to be imported from these countries.

The report presents several different scenarios based on the UK Government reducing or removing import tariffs for eggs and whole egg powder, and the impact this may have on the UK egg industry.