Egg shortage in S. Africa: Rationing and shortages

Egg shortage in S. Africa: Rationing and shortages
Supermarkets in South Africa, including Checkers pictured here, have run out of eggs or are limiting the number of eggs that consumers can purchase. Photos: Taylor Armstrong

South Africa is battling against highly pathogenic avian influenza in the country, which has resulted in massive grocery retailers nationwide limiting the number of eggs that shoppers can buy. Meanwhile, producers warn of chicken meat shortages in the coming weeks.

“Due to the shortage of eggs caused by the avian flu, we need to prioritise the use of available whole eggs that meet our standards of food safety and quality for Woolies products made with eggs,” noted Woolworths, an up-market retailer that currently sells half a dozen free-range eggs for R29.99 (US$1.54)

“As a temporary measure, we therefore have to limit whole egg purchases to 1 pack of 6 eggs per customer. We are working with our farmers to ensure regular supply returns as soon as possible,” the retailer added.

Retailer Pick n Pay, meanwhile, said it would limit purchases to 1 or 2 egg packs per customer, depending on the region, while Spar Group said it is exploring potentially importing eggs from neighbouring southern African countries.

Local poultry producers lose millions

It is reported that the widespread culling of chickens in the commercial poultry layer and broiler sectors accounts for 20-30% of the country’s total chicken stock.

Last month, poultry producer Quantum Foods said nearly 2 million chickens worth R106 million (US$5.63 m) had been killed by a bird flu outbreak – 1.5 million of its laying and breeding birds have been lost in the current bird flu outbreak following 420,000 laying chickens lost during an earlier wave of infections in April. Meanwhile, RCL Foods said that its poultry unit Rainbow, which is one of South Africa’s largest chicken producers, has culled 410,000 chickens due to the outbreak of avian flu.

“The outbreak has moved at a rapid pace, and the situation is constantly evolving. To date an estimated 410,000 birds have been culled, which has resulted in an estimated financial impact of R115 million (US$5.99 million),” RCL Foods reported.

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Natalie Kinsley Freelance journalist