Chickens less productive in cold, egg prices surge

BASIC INGREDIENT: Industry insiders say that bird flu has had little effect on egg demand, but supply has fallen because of the cold weather so the price has risen

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Wed, Feb 11, 2004 - Page 10

Egg prices may keep rising during the next one to two months as low temperatures over the past few weeks have restricted supply, industry insiders said yesterday.

"Unlike chicken, egg consumption did not dramatically fall because of fears of avian flu," said an official at National Animal Industry Foundation (中央畜產會), who asked to remain anonymous.

"Owing to the cold weather, the supply of eggs cannot catch up with the demand, boosting the price," the official said. "We expect the price to continue rising over the next one or two months."

Winter is traditionally the peak season for the consumption of eggs. But the lowest temperatures in 11 years have affected production.

"Avian flu did not greatly affect egg production as the number of layers culled totalled only around 10,000. Cold weather is the main factor," said Jiang Chiou-shiang (江秋香), chief of egg affairs at the ROC Poultry Association (中華民國養雞協會).

"The daily supply of eggs has fallen to 15.8 million from 17 million before the arrival of the cold front," she said.

The price of eggs at the place of origin rose to NT$19.5 per catty [600g] on Monday from NT$14 per catty last December. The price had been as high as NT$21.5 early last month.

The demand for eggs has remained high as the bird flu caused only a slight decrease in consumption, Jiang said.

Some retailers have had trouble ensuring a consistent supply of eggs this season but many have not considered raising the price.

"Our stock of eggs declined 20 percent to 30 percent from last year, while consumer demand dropped by only 10 percent due to the disease," said Conny Huang (黃冠怡), RT-Mart's marketing specialist.

While the retail price rose to NT$30 for a pack of 10 eggs, from NT$27 before the Lunar New Year, the hypermarket was not considering raising the price further as it has contracted suppliers to secure stable buying prices, Huang said.

The baking industry, already reeling from higher prices for flour and dairy products, said the rise in the price of eggs could be the last straw for them.

"So far, most of the bakeries have chosen to bear the rising costs themselves," said Judy Chang (張幼青), special assistant to the chairman at Wecare Foods Development Co (惟客爾), which operates nine bakeries in the Greater Taipei Area.

"But some of the bakery operators that have been hurt by the soaring cost may not rule out the possibility of raising the prices of bread and cakes," she said.