Thursday October 25, 2012
Culling leads to egg shortage
By YVONNE LIM and EILEEN NG
PETALING JAYA: Some five million old layer hens have been culled to keep down production costs, causing a nationwide shortage of eggs and a two sen increase in their price.
The shortage is 5% in an industry made up of 25 million layer hens which produce 22 million eggs per day.
Stockfeed accounts for at least 80% of production costs, according to farmers.
Federation of Livestock Farmers' Association layer unit chairman Yap Hoong Chai said the global livestock feed crisis brought about by the ongoing drought in the United States the world's largest producer of corn and soybean had forced farmers to cull more old layer hens.
He said farmers would typically cull about 10% of their older layer hens each cycle (of one to three months, depending on the farm size) to make room for younger, more productive hens, but have recently been culling up to 10% more hens.
“Ever since livestock feed such as corn and soybean meal increased in price by up to 80% the past year, farmers have had to reduce production costs,” he said.
He said one tonne of corn sold for RM800 in 2011 now cost RM1,200 while the price of imported soybean meal went up from RM1,200 to RM2,200.
“The farmers have been trying to keep egg prices down, and have even been selling below cost,” Yap said.
While egg prices have not reached an all-time high, he believed that people, especially in the food business, would feel the pinch.
“As long as feed prices remain high and keep shooting up, we have to raise our prices to survive,” he added.
He said that it would take farmers an average of one to three cycles to replenish the shortage of layers due to culling.
Yap added: “The additional culling is only a temporary measure. When we manage to balance supply and demand, farmers should be able to fully replace the culled layers within a couple of cycles.”
He said ex-farm prices for Grade A and B chicken eggs had gone up from 26 sen to 28 sen, pushing retail prices up from 32 sen to between 34 sen and 37 sen per egg.
Despite the shortage of eggs to meet local demand, about three million eggs were still being exported to Singapore daily, he said.
“Singapore is our traditional market. We have been exporting to it for years and do not foresee any reduction in our supply to them for now,” he added.
However, he said, the export of eggs to Hong Kong through the association had been halted and that any export was done by the farmers individually.
A survey done by the Consumer Research and Resource Centre, an arm of Fomca, at three hypermarkets in the Klang Valley between Oct 13 and 21 showed a price increase of 5% for Grade B chicken eggs and 0.4% for Grade A eggs.
The drought in the United States, which began in mid-2012, is said to be the worst in the American Midwest in 25 years and has drastically reduced the output of corn and soybeans.
Eateries and bakeries willing to absorb costs