BUSI­NESS: AVIAN FLU HITS EGG SUP­PLY

Loom­ing short­ages ex­pected to see prices in­crease sharply

The Herald (South Africa) - - FRONT PAGE - Shaun Gill­ham gill­hams@ti­soblack­star.co.za

WHILE mul­ti­ple out­breaks of dev­as­tat­ing avian flu have knocked the coun­try’s poul­try in­dus­try, the virus has brought a fresh chal­lenge to both the in­dus­try and con­sumers in the Eastern Cape – a loom­ing egg short­age.

An in­creas­ing short­age of eggs in the Western and Eastern Cape prov­inces is ex­pected to ex­pand into other parts of the coun­try, push­ing up prices of what is con­sid­ered to be one of the cheap­est forms of pro­tein.

The poor, tourism busi­nesses, and com­mer­cial food in­dus­tries are ex­pected to bear the brunt of short­ages and higher egg prices over the De­cem­ber hol­i­day pe­riod.

More than three mil­lion birds around the coun­try have been af­fected by the virus.

SPAR Eastern Cape mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Abri Swart ac­knowl­edged the im­pend­ing short­age, say­ing the ef­fects the avian flu had on the poul­try in­dus­try were al­ready be­ing felt on egg sup­ply lo­cally.

The re­tail group sourced a sig­nif­i­cant por­tion of its egg stocks from the hard-hit Western Cape, and short­ages were al­ready be­ing ex­pe­ri­enced at their sup­plier, Swart said.

“At this stage, we an­tic­i­pate the short­ages could last into Jan­uary.”

Absa AgriBusi­ness agri­cul­tural econ­o­mist Karabo Takadi said as a re­sult of the avian flu, the con­tin­ued culling of chick­ens and sup­ply short­ages, con­sumers could ex­pect in­creases in the prices of eggs in the com­ing months.

“The cost im­pact could flow fur­ther to pro­duc­ers of goods that use eggs as in­gre­di­ents, and ul­ti­mately to the con­sumer,” she said.

“In the com­ing months, con­sumers can ex­pect to pay as much as R3 more per dozen eggs.”

Sean Al­lan, brand man­ager at East Lon­don-based Sun­rise Eggs, which sup­plies ma­jor re­tail­ers and other busi­nesses across the Eastern Cape, said the short­ages which ini­tially arose in the Western Cape would have a knock-on ef­fect in other prov­inces.

“We do ex­pect in­creas­ing short­ages. This is go­ing to have a very neg­a­tive im­pact on the poor, who rely on this cheap source of pro­tein, and on the tourism in­dus­try.

“Tra­di­tion­ally, a lot of eggs are con­sumed in the De­cem­ber pe­riod.

“There are a large num­ber of com­plex­i­ties and vari­ables in this in­dus­try, which makes it dif­fi­cult to cre­ate a quick so­lu­tion,” he said.

“One can­not, for ex­am­ple, bring in more chick­ens to lay eggs in a par­tic­u­lar area, be­cause of the avian flu.”

Al­lan said prices would cer­tainly in­crease, not only as a re­sult of the egg short­ages, but also due to the money poul­try busi­nesses had had to in­vest in pro­tect­ing their poul­try from dis­ease.

Owner of pop­u­lar Port El­iz­a­beth patis­serie and bak­ery The Pas­try­works, Cherilyn Gottschalk, said her busi­ness had not yet ex­pe­ri­enced any short­age of eggs, which they sourced lo­cally.

“I think this will af­fect busi­nesses such as large re­tail­ers which buy in bulk and per­haps out of the prov­ince,” she said.

Gottschalk said The Pas­try­works used 48 30-egg trays a week to make its prod­ucts.

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