What is happening with the country’s eggs?
If you have gone around the supermarket refrigerators looking for eggs and you cannot find the local product, know that it is not by chance. It is that there is currently a disruption in the industry that keeps inventories limited due to the scarcity of American eggs, which leaves us short because local producers do not reach even 20% of the total demand for this food on the Island.
According to industry insiders, this could be due to multiple factors ranging from an increase in local demand, the avian crisis that hit the United States at the end of 2022, as well as the arrival of winter and the effects of the weather in egg producing companies, both in Puerto Rico and in the American nation.
The first vice president of the Chamber of Marketing, Industry and Food Distribution (MIDA) and manager of Agranel Supermarkets, Félix Aponte, establishes that the egg situation in the country was already complicated and is further aggravated due to the difficulties that this market is going through on American soil.
“One of the big problems that the country’s eggs have right now is that they cannot supply the entire market, they cannot cope. It does not reach 20%… Right now the country’s eggs are rationed to you, (suppliers) give you four or five boxes when you go to buy them and when they have them, that is the peculiarity with which we find ourselves. Those who bought 50 boxes now get five and that is to have a distribution of the product, and they combine that with the little (egg) that is arriving from the United States”.
First: school canteens
“We also have another situation and that is that classes have already started and the contract for eggs in school canteens is with the country’s egg. They have to supply that market first and then they go to the retailer. That creates, possibly, the scarcity, in quotes, that there is. Apart from the situation we have with the American egg,” said Aponte, who assured that, despite this, the product is available in the refrigerators of the establishments.
“It is not that you will find an empty fridge, because there are no eggs, you will see little quantity, but you will get it. Right now, if there is not one, there is the other, if there is not from the country, there is American”, affirmed the manager.
For his part, Antonio Colón, president of the Super Savings chain, which has 38 supermarkets around the island, agrees that the establishments have eggs for sale, but not enough for current demand.
“I have both, but not in the quantities that my clients demand. Delivery is not so frequent and there are areas where the country’s eggs do not reach, because if the large chains buy, the product does not reach the medium-sized chains. What happens is that Puerto Rico does not produce even 20% of the country’s egg consumption. In addition, in this cold weather, practically all the plants that produce eggs are in the coldest areas of Puerto Rico and at this time the production of the hens always goes down, just like it happens in the United States.
What it has done is scarcity and it makes the country’s eggs more expensive,” said Colón. Precisely, the difficulty in meeting the demand raises the costs of both the country and the American eggs, and the latter has been coping with the avian flu crisis that caused the loss of between 29 and 30 million chickens between September and October 2022.
It was not until last October that the American egg began to be produced again and, in the midst of this process, winter fell and the weather aggravated its production. As explained in several places specialized in raising laying hens, egg production decreases in the cold season due to the lack of daylight, which the birds translate into a signal that they should rest. Likewise, hens suffer “cold stress” when temperatures drop, which decreases egg production, which in some cases reaches up to 25%.
“That still keeps it scarce… and aggravates the situation because of the price factor. The country egg is between $160 and $170 approximately (a box of 30 dozen), the American one is between $140 and $150, that is what the box costs us and that is divided by 30 dozen and that gives you the unit cost. It is expensive, both in the country and in the United States”, detailed Aponte.
”With these figures, the price of a dozen local or American eggs would be between $4.66 and $5.66. But, as Primera Hora verified in a tour of various establishments, the cost varies between $6 and $8.50 for 12 units. However, the president of MIDA hopes that between the end of February and the beginning of March the costs will stabilize if production in the American nation is regulated.
“Logically, a drop in cost will come again, because there will be supply, there will be distribution and we hope to God that there are no other types of problems and that the price can be stabilized. There will be more merchandise here on the Island and the country’s egg will be more comfortable in its distribution. We are going to see a drop in costs, but that is when the United States market stabilizes”, Aponte predicted.
While Colón was not so hopeful about the situation and stated that it is a problem that is already occurring with other local products.
“It is not expected that this will be solved in a short time. We are having the same situation with the country’s chicken, which does not reach many medium-sized chains. We are already importing 85% of the total consumption (of food), we are even importing green bananas, imagine”, the businessman pointed out.
Since last week, Primera Hora has requested an interview with the secretary of the Department of Agriculture, Ramón González Beiró, or some other agency resource, but no one has been available to offer statements on this situation of shortages, which are added to that of bananas and bananas that is experienced on the Island.