Rising energy prices and bird flu threat cause fears over egg shortage

  • Watch the report by ITV Cymru Wales Rural Affairs Correspondent, Hannah Thomas

Fears are growing over an egg shortage crisis this winter due to rising energy prices and the looming threat of bird flu.

Welsh farmers estimate that we will see ten million fewer eggs in supply every day, with Welsh producers keeping fewer hens or going out of business because of increasing energy costs.

Wales produces more free range eggs than anywhere in Europe. But farmers are warning that supermarket shelves will be empty if the current situation continues.

Ioan Humphreys, from Talerddig in Powys, is one of many farmers who've seen their feed and fuel bills soar. "We need to see more of the money coming to us the farmers.", He said.

The cost of feeding Ioan's hens indoors has doubled and the cost of electricity to heat their shed has tripled.

"I think they've already increased the price for you the consumers 40 or 45 pence already. And we haven't seen that. We're making a loss producing eggs. We just want a fair price so we're not going into debt by feeding the nation."

Ioan's hens are free range, but they can go indoors if they wish. However, the cost of feeding them there has doubled and the cost of electricity to heat their shed has tripled.

Josh Heyneke from Hebron in Carmarthenshire is the UK's only organic duck egg producer. But he faces the same problems and fears he'll be out of business by the winter.

Josh said: "Farmers need to be able to have breathing room to reinvest in their farms, future proof their businesses, and make themselves more resilient moving forward. So farmers need a bit of a break."

Another threat to poultry producers this winter is Avian influenza, also known as 'bird flu'. The viral disease is highly contagious and affects the respiratory, digestive or nervous system of many species of bird. Some strains can spread easily between birds and have a high death rate.

An emergency meeting was held this week about avian influenza, as Britain's biggest ever outbreak of bird flu is getting worse.

Gavin Watkins, Interim Chief Vet for Wales, said: "This particular strain of the virus is very deadly to certain birds - and particularly to poultry and game birds. So we are in an unprecedented situation. This virus is a threat to birds whether they're housed or not, and in fact most of the outbreaks we're seeing now are in housed birds."

As a result, hens may need to be locked up in the coming weeks, which will have a drastic affect on egg producers.

Dafydd Jarrett, Poultry Adviser at NFU Cymru, said: "They plan their investment, perhaps, over a twenty year period. And they don't actually finally get returns until the end of that period, and if you have any hiccups within that production period, obviously it's going to have a huge effect on the profitability overall."

Suspected cases of bird flu must legally be reported to the Animal and Plant Health Agency.

Officials say the risk to public health from the virus is very low and food standards agencies said bird flu poses a very low food safety risk.