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Egg producers warn consumers of supply shortages, high prices as NZ goes cage-free

Egg producers are warning consumers to get used to supply shortages and be prepared to pay a high price at supermarkets for the popular protein source.

Major retailers are struggling for stock as they plan to phase out colony eggs - a decision seeing farmers exit the industry.

After new animal welfare regulations in 2012 banned battery farming, egg farmer Laurie Horsfall spent more than $2 million converting to larger colony cages.

Then supermarkets announced they'd only sell free-range or barn eggs from 2027 and he says this moved the goal posts.

“I used to do all the Countdowns in the lower North Island - we now no longer supply them any eggs,” he says.

Now many farmers with smaller operations are being forced to consider their future.

The Ministry for Primary Industries says egg production has certainly been affected.

“We've seen a number of smaller producers who have effectively moved out of the market so that will have had some effect on the egg supply,” says MPI's Chris Rodwell Director of Animal Health and Welfare.

Wholesaler Gilmours, owned by supermarket giant Foodstuffs, admitted this week there's uncertainty around egg supply and customers could expect shortages.

Michael Brooks of the Egg Producers Federation says all current cages have to be gone by 2022.

“What you will see are ebbs and flows in eggs supplies and people trying to transition to new options. So I think what we have seen in recent months we will see again over the next few years,” he says.

Foodstuffs says with growing demand for free range, it's sticking by its decision to phase out all cage eggs by 2027.

While supply might be reduced from time to time it says it will continue to work with producers to minimise shortages.

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Some farmers are giving up on the egg industry altogether after a decision by retailers to phase out caged hens' eggs. Source: 1 NEWS