April 16, 2019
New Zealand is hit by a country-wide egg shortage, sparking fears of rising prices of eggs.
Issues with local supply are causing the shortages, according to Michael Brooks, executive director of Poultry Industry Association. "We're just going to see a lesser amount of eggs, and that will probably translate to some extent to price increases, just because of a shortage of supply," he said.
The number of laying hens in New Zealand fell from 4.2 million at the end of 2018, to 3.6 million.
The declines were attributed to rules which were introduced in 2012 to gradually end the practice of keeping hens in battery cages by 2022. Consequentially, farmers need to meet a series of deadlines requiring an incremental provision of more space for hens. They also coped with significant costs to meet each stage of the new regulations. Some farmers had to cut down flock sizes to accommodate infrastructure changes.
"There are costs in terms of new land, new farming systems, and a lot of farmers have really got some big and very costly decisions to make - and that's had an impact on supply, and that is part of the issue that's leading to this supply issue at the moment," Brooks commented.
In addition, slow approval processes for resources delayed many developments and affected new-comers. The New Zealand egg industry also has to meet demands prompted by the rising, local consumption of eggs.
"We produce one billion eggs a year. We're big egg eaters, it's a cost effective form of protein, and New Zealanders like eggs," Brooks added.
Yet, despite the recent declines, the number of hens in the country had begun to grow again, he said as he estimated that New Zealand's egg supply should be back to normal in about six months.