Egg price to rise as farmers crack under pressure
This sign at a western Jamaica business place suggests a limited amount of eggs in supply.

FALMOUTH, Trelawny — Consumers are being warned that due to a steep rise in the cost of production, they should brace for an increase in the price of eggs.

President of the Jamaica Egg Farmers Association Mark Campbell claims that the spike in the cost of egg production has already resulted in sending up the price of the product in some international markets.

"Look at what happened in the United States where the consumers are now paying anywhere between US$6.50 and US$9 a dozen for eggs...and that is up from US$2.50, or there about. So that is what has happened worldwide. Whereas the farmers have been able to make the adjustments in the United States and so on, in Jamaica we have not been able to," Campbell argued.

He also blamed the spiralling expense faced by egg farmers among the causes for a contraction in the supply of eggs now being experienced on the local market.

President of the Jamaica Egg Farmers Association, Mark Campbell.

"Why the eggs are so short is because people are not able to buy back the birds or buy the feed. So the eggs have become tight and will become tighter and inevitably will result in an adjustment in the price, a significant adjustment," the head of the local egg farmers' association warned.

"I would say, based on how some farmers are low down on their pricing, that nothing short of a 30 per cent increase is going to make those people viable in their business. Their business won't be viable unless they can see at least a 30 per cent increase," he added.

He was, however, quick to add that there is not currently an acute shortness in supply but it is trending towards a "tightness".

"There is nobody, like any big hotel, that is not receiving their eggs, but the quantities are not there to fill the orders 100 per cent. So a man will, for example, order 10 cases. He will get half today and half tomorrow when he would have wanted everything at the same time. So it is heading towards a tightness. We don't describe it yet as a shortage, we describe it as a tightness in the market," Campbell explained.

He listed the Russian invasion of Ukraine; the failure of some farmers to recover from the full impact of COVID-19; a logistical challenge in the US, among the factors that contributed to the tightness in supply.

At the same time, Campbell explained that the cost to feed the birds as well as to replenish the flock account for 75 per cent of the overall expense to egg farmers.

"...So everything else — to pay the workers, to pay light bill, to maintain the farm, purchase medication, deliver the eggs — all of those things only come up to between 20 and 25 per cent of production cost. Just to feed the fowls and make them healthy enough and to buy back the fowls when them finish and the feeding of the fowls come up to between 75 and 80 per cent," he expressed.

But he remains optimistic that the expected supply of 10 per cent increase in the number of poulets coming into the market for this year will reverse the contraction in supply, "but that alone cannot solve the problem if the farmers do not get a significant adjustment.

"We have a tightness in the market but between now and August, 360,000 new layers will be added to the national flock. Now the national flock is just over a million, so 360,000 is about 30 per cent of it. So that is going to put a significant amount of eggs into the system. So although it is tight now, it us going to be short-lived because who are able to afford it, can now replace non-performing birds," Campbell said.

Campbell also noted that the introduction of white eggs to the local consumers during the height of COVID-19 was one of the positive spin-offs from the pandemic for farmers.

"We were forced to sell the eggs to the people of Jamaica at a significantly reduced price and so they got into consuming more eggs. So right now I think the per capita consumption of eggs has gone up. It has also contributed to the shortage," the veteran egg farmer said.

"The Jamaican people were not buying white eggs. Now they are buying a significant amount of white eggs so the demand is up and the supply is down and that is where the farmer now is caught in a bind. With the cost of production increasing so significantly they have not been able to make the adjustment in terms of pricing," Campbell continued.

BY HORACE HINES Sunday Observer writer

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