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Eggs rationing at some British supermarkets as avian flu hits supply

LONDON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - Some British supermarkets have started to ration customers' purchase of eggs after supplies were disrupted by avian flu.

Britain is facing its largest-ever outbreak of bird flu and is seeing rapid escalation in the number of cases on commercial farms, impacting eggs supply and also raising fears of a shortage of turkeys and chickens for the Christmas table.

Asda, Britain's third largest grocer after market leader Tesco and Sainsbury's, is limiting customers to two boxes of eggs.

“While avian flu has disrupted the supply of some egg ranges, retailers are experts at managing supply chains and are working hard to minimise impact on customers," Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium which represents British supermarkets, said.

"Some stores have introduced temporary limits on the number of boxes customers can buy to ensure availability for everyone," he added.

A spokesperson for Sainsbury's said it was "experiencing some supply challenges with eggs".

The spokesperson said the group had not introduced purchase limits but was having to temporarily source some eggs from Italy.

The British Free Range Egg Producers Association (BFREPA) said the increased cost of producing eggs since Russia's invasion of Ukraine was another factor impacting supply.

"Farmers are basically losing money because the price that's being paid in the supermarket isn't being passed back down the supply chain to farmers," a BFREPA spokesperson said.

"So a huge number of them are losing a significant amount of money and can't afford to produce eggs any more," they said, noting the industry is down 743,350 layers this season.

Last week the UK's chief veterinary officer Christine Middlemiss played down the threat to Christmas poultry supplies from bird flu.

She told BBC radio Britain slaughters about 1 billion birds a year, while so far in the current outbreak 2.3 million birds had either died or been culled, so a small number in terms of overall annual production. (Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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