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Supermarket retailers start rationing eggs due to avian flu outbreak

Six-eggs-per-customer limit is in place

Wendy Knowler Consumer journalist
Woolworths has put its customers on egg rations, and Pick n Pay plans to follow suit in some regions. Stock photo.
Woolworths has put its customers on egg rations, and Pick n Pay plans to follow suit in some regions. Stock photo.
Image: Picture: 123RF/Karandaev

In a drastic response to the avian flu crisis which has led to a severe shortage of eggs in the country, Woolworths has put its customers on egg rations and Pick n Pay plans to follow suit in some regions.

Until further notice, a six-eggs-per-customer limit is in place, except if the store still has (fast dwindling) packs of 18 or 36 eggs.

“Woolworths has been monitoring the avian flu situation carefully both locally and internationally, and we are following strict biosecurity protocols to protect our hens as best we can,” the retailer said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

“As is the case across the market, we’re experiencing significant challenges with our supply, and because of this, we’ve implemented a limit on whole egg purchases ... while we work with our farmers to ensure regular supply returns as soon as possible.

“This is a temporary measure, and we appreciate the patience and understanding our customers have shown during this time.”

Pick n Pay is also set to introduce egg-buying limits.

“We will limit purchases to one or two egg packs per customer depending on the region, and we will continue to work closely with our suppliers to manage our stock so that we assist stores in areas where suppliers have been affected,” a PnP spokesperson said.

“We are asking customers to please shop responsibly.”

There were no eggs available on Tuesday via the Shoprite group’s popular Sixty60 online shopping app, all brands being marked as “out of stock”.

Asked if the group was considering limiting quantities sold in its stores, Shoprite said it had no plans to do so.

“We are working closely with suppliers, securing as much stock as possible and using our supply chain to transport it to regions experiencing shortages,” a spokesperson said.

Industry sources have confirmed that South Africans will face significantly higher chicken and egg prices as producers battle the most devastating avian influenza outbreak since 2017.

There is talk of importing millions of fertilised eggs into the country to offset local broiler chicken shortages, and the industry predicts that chicken imports leading up to the December period will increase significantly.

The H5 variant is dominant in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, while the more deadly H7 outbreaks are mainly in Limpopo, the North West, the Free State and Mpumalanga.

With the H7 strain, the chickens take much longer to show signs of infection, meaning they live longer with the virus and infect other poultry flocks in the process.

Farmers are required to cull all chickens and destroy all eggs found at the site of an avian flu outbreak and farms within 3km of the initial infection site are required to do the same.

South African Poultry Association GM Izaak Breitenbach was quoted in the Farmers’ Weekly last week as saying that since the beginning of the year, more than 5-million commercial layer birds and about 2.5-million broilers had been culled. While the outbreak was concerning for the industry, he said, consumers could rest assured none of the infected chickens will reach the marketplace.


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