The European Union is the world's second egg producer, second to China, and a net exporter of eggs and egg products.
There are almost 400 million laying hens in the EU. About 53%, of them are kept in enriched cages, 27% in barn systems, 15% in free range and 5% are in organic holdings. The laying hens produce more than 7.5 million tonnes of eggs each year, whereof seven Member States account for 75% of the production. Those major producers are France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Poland. About 10% of the production consists of hatching eggs.
The EU has a self-sufficiency of about 105%, and exports eggs and egg products for a value of more than €200 million each year historically, although this amount has decreased recently. The main importers of EU eggs are Japan and Switzerland. Imports of eggs and egg products have increased during last years, main sellers being the US and Ukraine.
Policy instruments for the egg sector
The objectives of the EU policy instruments are to structure and safeguard the stability of market prices in the sector, to facilitate the marketing of products and to establish the rules in the trade with third countries, providing stability for the European producers and processors.
Egg production has never been subject to coupled payments nor production quota. The egg sector is however part of the common market organisation (CMO/EU regulation 1308/2013), governing agricultural markets in the European Union. As such, the egg sector is concerned by rules on trade, marketing standards and information such as prices of eggs and number of laying hens.
Trade – Import duties/tariff quotas/licences
Egg imports from third countries are subject to import duties. Within the framework of international and bilateral trade agreements, the EU operates a system of import quotas with specific country allocations or open for all (erga omnes).
Import of eggs for consumption from third countries is allowed under specific conditions regarding animal health and food safety.
Marketing standards applicable to the egg sector are designed to improve the quality of the products, to protect the consumer and to harmonise the internal market.
Commission Regulation (EC) No 589/2008 lays down detailed rules in order to apply the basic requirements of the CMO regulation that eggs must satisfy to be marketed in the EU. It fixes general rules for:
- marking of eggs and packs,
- quality and weight grading,
- work of packing stations,
- packaging, storage, transport and,
- presentation for retail sale of eggs.
Price reporting system
Under Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2017/1185 of 20 April 2017 each Member State must submit to the Commission, no later than 12.00 noon (Brussels time) each Wednesday, the wholesale price for Class A eggs from caged hens (average of large and medium sized eggs (L and M)), expressed per 100 kg. Prices shall be notified for products in packing stations. Where the production in cages is no longer representative, the Member State concerned shall notify the wholesale price of Class A eggs, produced by laying hens kept in barn systems, expressed per 100 kg.
The price reporting system is an important tool that reflects market developments and allows general trends in the egg sector to be assessed. It plays an important role in triggering the market support measures and providing quality-based payment to suppliers of eggs while maintaining price transparency.