SHELL SHOCK: ARE EGGS RUN­NING OUT?

Pro­duc­tion to dip due to bird culling

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - ED­WARD WEST

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.”

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