Britain faces an egg "crisis" after new EU regulations on hen cages have forced prices to rocket as demand outstrips supply.
The new EU rules banning the housing of hens in conventional cages are being blamed for increased competition among food service operators and food manufacturers to source compliant eggs.
The price of eggs on the EU wholesale markets has quadrupled to more than €4 a kg over the past week, according to The Observer.
But businesses that made commitments to ethical sourcing ahead of the regulations, which came into force in January, may have managed to avoid the procurement challenges now faced by many.
Three of contract caterer WSH's businesses - BaxterStorey, Holroyd Howe and Caterlink - signed a procurement deal with Lancashire firm Staveley's Eggs back in 2010.
This means they are completely unaffected by the issues because of the company's emphasis on building good links with its suppliers, according to WSH supply chain director Anil Alim.
"We have a long-standing relationship with Staveley's, with a commitment on both sides to protect price and volume," he explained. "From our perspective, the test comes at times like this, but also conversely when there's a glut in the market.
"We don't go running after potentially cheaper prices because we believe in long-standing relationships and working together."
The new rules stipulate that egg producers in EU member states must keep their hens in specially enriched pens. While the move has been broadly welcomed by animal rights campaigners, many egg producers have felt unable to absorb the costs of buying the pens.
Spain, which was traditionally a net exporter of eggs, has become a net importer because of the decision by many producers to leave the market.
A spokesperson from the British Egg Industry Council (BEIC) said that the UK retail market for shell eggs was largely unaffected, adding: "However retailers, caterers and food manufacturers buying cage eggs on the wholesale market, a significant proportion of which is traditionally supplied by imported eggs, may have difficulty in securing a supply of legal eggs."
By Janie Manzoori-Stamford
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