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Agriculture department, retailers working to avert egg shortage

An opened carton of eggs sits on a table.

The Department of Agriculture says it is working to ensure there is no shortage of eggs in the country due to the avian flu outbreak. File Picture: Reuters.

Published Oct 4, 2023


Durban - The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) says it is engaging with the retail industry and working to ensure there is no shortage of eggs due to the avian flu outbreak.

Reggie Ngcobo, spokesperson for the DALRRD, said Minister Thoko Didiza met retailers to discuss the impact of the avian flu in the country on Monday.

“It was evident that the main challenge is primarily on the egg production side, where there are supply constraints in some regions of the country.”

Ngcobo added that steps were being taken to address challenges in the supply of eggs.

“The minister is dealing with improving efficiency in issuing import permits for egg products to ensure sufficient supplies for consumers. In addition, the minister is looking at the possibility of vaccination and currently reviewing applications by various suppliers.”

Ngcobo added that containment measures were being put in place to contain the outbreak.

“The minister briefed the retailers on the containment measures that have been taken to limit the spread of the disease as well as possible solutions to manage such outbreaks in the short and medium term, including vaccination.

“On the broiler side, Ministers Didiza and Patel are assessing some trade instruments to ease the supply of chicken meat.”

Retailers said they were also taking steps to ensure the supply of eggs.

Shoprite said the avian flu outbreak was affecting the supply of chicken and eggs: “We are working closely with suppliers, securing as much stock as possible and utilising our supply chain to transport it to regions experiencing shortages.”

Pick n Pay said as the industry managed the outbreak of avian flu, they were working very closely with their suppliers nationwide to manage their stock and assist stores in areas where suppliers had been affected.

Lee Pather, owner of Leepat Poultry Farm in Silverglen, said the shortage in the supply of eggs was bound to happen due to the millions of chickens that had to be culled.

“We are going to see fewer eggs being supplied. The crucial aspect is how the supply of eggs is managed at retailers.”

Sandile Ndlovu, a layer poultry farmer in Ndwedwe, said it was crucial that permits by DALRRD were issued for the importing of eggs.

“We may experience a shortage of chicken, but at least chicken is still being imported. However, eggs are something that we don’t normally import so we do need the government to step in and ensure that permits are issued to import eggs.”

Ndlovu added that the parental stock had been affected due to the avian flu outbreak.

“Due to the number of chickens that have been culled the parental stock has been reduced. We will see two things happen; there will be a shortage in the supply of eggs and the price of eggs will go up. It is bad for the consumer – last year we saw the price of chicken go up due to the Russia/Ukraine conflict and now the avian flu outbreak will cause an increase in prices.”