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‘Eggscruciating’ prices and limited egg supplies as avian flu impact continues

Government steps up imports of chicken and eggs before the festive season

Gill Gifford Senior journalist
As avian flu sweeps South Africa, shops are feeling the effect of restricted supplies of eggs and chickens and are forced to pass on price increases to consumers.
As avian flu sweeps South Africa, shops are feeling the effect of restricted supplies of eggs and chickens and are forced to pass on price increases to consumers.
Image: Eugene Coetzee

As the government struggles to contain the outbreak of avian flu and address the shortages of eggs and chicken before the festive season, the price and availability of eggs is heavily affecting Gauteng. 

A quick check on prices at some of the big supermarket chains' online offerings show prices vary hugely, and there is limited availability. Many of the standard offerings are marked “out of stock” while some products are strictly “one per customer”. 

The National Agricultural Marketing Council has released its food price basket costs for September 2023 and, according to this, from August to September the cost of 18 eggs has gone up by 2%, from R50.89 to R51.91. 

However, a check on the actual store prices this week by TimesLIVE revealed a different story — with trays of 18 eggs going for R49.99 at Shoprite to up to R89.99 at other shops. The prices were drawn from online shopping portals, so the in-store prices may differ. 

While egg prices go according to the size and grade of eggs, they are also affected by whether the eggs are standard, free range, organic, omega-3 or pasteurised and the farming method involved. Many chains also carry their own brands. 

  • A check on Pick n Pay's prices has the cost of six eggs ranging from R24.99 to R29.99; 18 eggs from R64.99 to R89.99; 30 eggs from R99.99 to R104.99 and 60 for R179.99. 
  • At Checkers, the eggs go for R19.99 to R24.99 for six; R59.99 to R63.99 for 18; R99.99 to R109.99 for 30 and R159.99 to R174.99 for 48. 
  • Shoprite had only a single offering, a tray of 18 for R49.99.
  • Woolworths' online offerings were only boxes of six ranging in price from R24.99 to R47.99 and they also had a one litre bottle of free range egg whites for R139.99. 
  • While Spar has a huge variety of eggs listed on its online shop with a wide range in prices, almost all were marked “out of stock”. Their prices are between R16.69 and R31.99 for six; R74.99 to R89.99 for 18; R96.99 to R147.99 for 30 and R247.99 for 60. 

Highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N1) was first reported in Mpumalanga in May and the poultry industry is under pressure with eggs and chicken in increasingly short supply, leading to rising prices as supply falls behind demand. 

The agriculture ministry this week announced efforts are under way to address the shortages. Since the beginning of September, the department has granted 115 permits for fertiliser eggs, 48 permits for egg powder, 2,406 permits for poultry meat and 24 permits for table eggs. Each permit allows one shipping container or 10,000 tonnes. 

Department spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said with the permits issued, the consignments have already arrived or are in transit — these include 34,511 tonnes of poultry meat, 1.9-million hatching eggs and 5,840 day-old chicks. 

TimesLIVE

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