SHELL SHOCK: ARE EGGS RUNNING OUT?
Production to dip due to bird culling
EGG prices may increase sharply soon, and there may be shortages if the avian flu outbreak is not contained and government does not support eggproducing farmers, Dargle egg producer Robin Barnsley said yesterday.
He was commenting on reports that egg production has been hard hit in the Western Cape, after the H5N8 avian flu strain was found in 22 locations in the province and some 18% of its egg laying birds, or two million birds, had to be culled.
A check at six Pietermaritzburg supermarkets yesterday showed there appeared to be no shortage of eggs as yet.
Barnsley said the bird culling in the Western Cape is likely to have an impact on the egg market fairly shortly as eggs, like any other commodity, are traded between the provinces.
Eggs are used in a wide variety of foods and are a primary and relatively inexpensive source of protein for lower income people.
Barnsley said there had already been a dip in the national production of eggs before the outbreak of the disease in this country in June.
“I am quite sure there will be an impact. In the U.S., in spite of good support for farmers from their government, there was an immediate and massive increase in the price of eggs,” he said.
He said the government had not yet provided any support in the form of compensation for culled birds or in terms of vaccinations.
“They [the government] are kicking touch on this all the time,” said Barnsley.
He said the onset of warmer weather over summer might curb the spread of the disease.
Windmeul Eggs managing director Pier Passerini said the disease had a devastating impact on the 40year old family business, which located near Wellington, in the Cape.
The business is among several in the Western Cape that have been forced to cull hundreds of thousands of hens in an effort to halt the spread of the deadly H5N8 virus.
The virus has been detected mainly in Mpumalanga, Gauteng and Western Cape since the first incident was reported in June. In Gauteng late last week, birds in Johannesburg Zoo and city dams had died from the disease.
A spokesperson from Shoprite said Shoprite and Checkers stores currently receive adequate quantities of eggs to service consumer demand.
“For the rest of the month, however, retailers will not be able to place eggs on promotion to keep demand levels stable. Egg suppliers have indicated that warmer weather will assist in putting avian flu in check,” the biggest store chain group in the country said in response to questions.
Woolworths Food’s head of innovation Richard Stockley said: “We have not been affected by any shortages on our daily volume requirements and we do not foresee short supply unless our local suppliers are directly affected by avian influenza. As a retailer of poultry products, we are carefully monitoring the avian flu situation — both internationally and locally.”