"The fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not mean all who were laughed at were geniuses. They laughed at Columbus. They laughed at Fulton. They also laughed at Bozo the clown." Carl Sagan
In week ended 5th January, the deadweight prime cattle average price levelled on the week at 365.0p/kg. read more
As domestic lamb continues to compete with increased volumes of cheaper imports and demand remains subdued, DW lamb prices eased in week ended 5th January. read more
World prices eased back towards the end of 2012 although remained at levels comparable to the same period in 2011. read more
Having shot to record levels during September and October, GB finished pig prices continued to rise in November and early December, albeit more slowly. read more
The GB weekly average price rose by £4.63/t to £227.93/t and the free-buy average fell by £4.45/t to £330.74/t. read more
Mid-January saw the release of much-anticipated information from the USDA in the form of world supply and demand estimates, US winter wheat plantings, final 2012 production estimates and quarterly stocks. read more
The USDA data set a bearish tone for oilseed markets with upward revisions to US and Brazilian crops. read more
UK malting barley export prices are at €245/t FOB (spring, South Coast) w/e 11th April. read more
The latest National Statistics produced by Defra on the activity of UK hatcheries and poultry slaughterhouses. read more
USDA’s latest quarterly stocks report, released on 28th September, estimated US maize stocks (at 1st September) at 25.1m t, down 12% on the same point in 2011 and the lowest since 2004. read more
Iona Walton talks to Lucie Bowler of John Bowler Eggs about the shape of the free-range egg market
Celebrating his 30 years in the egg business, John Bowler has seen the industry move through many cycles. In this time it has been transformed from one where battery systems dominated, to the consumer conscious, welfare friendly free-range system that now meets the majority of the UK’s egg buyers’needs. Until recently the sector enjoyed exceptional growth, but now the market is experiencing oversupply. This is no reason for producers to lose faith, suggests Mr Bowler; rather they should retain a long-term sense of perspective.
The market is, by all accounts, still growing, he says, but it is maturing, meaning future growth will come at a slower rate. The current situation, he insists, is a short-term blip caused by opportunists keen to get a short-term slice of the action. This has led to a surplus, putting pressure on prices. His message is clear: the efficient producer has nothing to fear and once the market stabilises, producers can expect to make a sustainable return.
“We have acted responsibly as our two egg buyers, Noble and Stonegate, have only catered for the market they have firm sales for and have not dumped eggs onto the open market,” says Mr Bowler. “We set up new producers in financially viable situations and we try to incur only responsible borrowings. We don’t build 32,000-bird units, (our average shed size is 12,000 birds) that can stretch egg producers’ finances, as such vast quantities quickly swamp the market.”
John Bowler’s Eggs was the first to offer its producers a unique level of support. A specialist is employed in each domain, for example a solicitor heads the planning team, indicating how important John Bowler takes planning and its commitment at this stage.
“Before planning permission is sought we form an Evergreen Agreement with the producer to take four flocks-worth of eggs from them,” explains marketing director Lucie Bowler. “Based on a rolling period where 56 months is four flock cycles (a flock cycle is 14 months) when each finishes we add another to the end, thus creating stability.”
Approximately 95% of planning applications the company is involved in are approved and the average time from start of planning to housing the birds is about 18 months.
With 160 producers on its books, the team at John Bowler’s Eggs is not looking to forge relationships with new suppliers, but highlights that if another major retailer were to decide to use only free-range eggs in its processed food, the current surplus could be quickly absorbed.
“When seeking contracts with producers we look for people we can work with in the long-term,” Ms Bowler says. “Our financial analyst assists with all aspects of financial planning including the preparation of cash flows and projections to be used in support of their application for funding if required. We are the only operation that gives financial advice to this level.”
A field support team is available 24/7 and trains new producers before the first flock is delivered. It also monitors the growth and development of the flock, and ensures it is reared and vaccinated in line with the company’s programme.
Although John Bowler Eggs has temporarily stopped advertising for new recruits, it is still holding open days, organising site visits and issuing free-range agreements to those interested in joining them in the future.
“If any company is recruiting free-range egg producers they are probably doing our industry a great injustice and it may be prudent to investigate such claims in detail before getting involved,” advises Ms Bowler.
But the family is expanding its business practices in two additional areas: marketing its free-range egg model overseas and the renewable arena in the UK.
“Interest in the John Bowler package has existed in countries such as the US for some time, but we have chosen to tackle the UK market as a priority,” Ms Bowler says. “We are always up for a challenge, however, and anticipate breaking into foreign markets relatively soon.”
For further information please visit www.johnbowler.co.uk
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