December 4, 2013


Australia expects egg shortage after bird-flu outbreak



Australia is expected to experience an egg shortage ahead of Christmas season after a bird-flu outbreak shut down two poultry farms.


The outbreak was detected in late October at the Langfield Pastoral Company, located in Young, New South Wales. The virus originated at the property's free range farm and soon spread to its neighbouring caged farm. About 450,000 chickens have been destroyed.


The virus is not the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said. Nevertheless, it is creating a national shortfall and will cause egg prices to rise, which will likely take 6 to 12 months to abate.


One of country's biggest egg processors, Melbourne-based Farm Pride Foods, has been forced to cancel orders, while the company's sales plunged by 8% to 9% compared to the same period of 2012.


Ian Savenake, Farm Pride sales and marketing manager, said Langfield supplied about 3% to 4% of the national egg market, and the stock in Farm Pride's cool room in Melbourne had reduced significantly.


Bede Burke, chairman of NSW Farmers Association Egg Committee, said, "The comfort level for eggs in NSW is about 1.4 million dozen to fill the cool rooms at the end of the week. We are well under that now, down about 15%."


According to Burke, the shortage had already pushed up farm gate prices, which would filter through to retailers.


NSW chief veterinary officer Ian Roth said, "There is no indication that the virus has spread beyond the two properties, and the DPI is working with the owners to recommence operations."


Meanwhile, NSW Food Authority confirmed that there were no food safety issues, and poultry and eggs remained safe to eat.