Mexico scrambles to cope with egg shortage

ALL IN ONE BASKET::Three million hens are to be sent to farms affected by bird flu and more than 150 tonnes of eggs have been imported from the US


Sun, Aug 26, 2012 - Page 13

The Mexican government is battling an egg shortage that has caused prices to spike in a country with the highest per capita egg consumption on Earth.

A summer epidemic of bird flu in the heart of Mexico’s egg industry has doubled the cost of a kilo, or about 13 eggs, to more than 40 pesos (US$3), a major blow to working- and middle-class consumers in a country that consumes more than 350 eggs per person each year. That is 100 more eggs per person than in the US.

Egg prices have dominated the headlines in the country for a week, spurring Mexico City’s mayor to ship tonnes of cheap eggs to poor neighborhoods and the Mexican federal government to announce emergency programs to get fresh chickens to farms hit by bird flu and to restock supermarket shelves with eggs imported from the US and Central America.

The national dismay over egg prices has revealed the unappreciated importance of a cheap, easy source of protein that is nearly as important to Mexican kitchens as tortillas, rice and beans. Added boiled to stewed chicken, raw to a fruit-juice hangover cure and in every other conceivable form to hundreds of other foods, the once-ubiquitous egg has disappeared from many street-side food stands and middle-class kitchens in recent days.

“Eggs, as you know, are one of Mexicans’ most important foods and make up a core part of their diet, especially in the poorest regions of the country,” President Felipe Calderon said on Friday as he announced about US$227 million in emergency financing and commercial measures to restore production and replace about 11 million chickens slaughtered after the June outbreak of bird flu.

Calderon said he was sending inspectors to stop speculation that he blamed for high egg prices, which have almost single-handedly driven up the national rate of inflation.

He said that about three million hens were being sent to farms hit by the flu outbreak and more than 150 tonnes of eggs had already crossed the border from the US and 100 trailers carrying 500 more tonnes would arrive in the country over the weekend.