WORLDWIDE : Severe outbreaks of bird flu in the United States and France are tightening global egg supplies and raising prices for the food staple as the war in Ukraine disrupts shipments to Europe and the Middle East.
Higher prices are particularly painful for consumers who rely on eggs as a low-cost source of protein and substitute for more expensive meat. Demand jumps around the Easter and Passover holidays in the United States and Europe as families use eggs to bake and dye Easter eggs.
Bird flu has wiped out more than 19 million egg-laying chickens on commercial U.S. farms this year in the worst outbreak since 2015, eliminating about 6% of the country’s flock, according to Reuters calculations of federal and state government data. France, meanwhile, is suffering its worst outbreak ever in which about 8% of egg-laying hens have been culled.
When poultry are infected, entire flocks are culled to contain the disease, which is often spread by wild birds.The deadly virus and war are the latest challenges for egg suppliers also grappling with labor shortages and high costs for energy and grain used for animal feed.
Higher egg prices eat into profits for bakeries and food companies grappling with increased costs for flour and other goods. World food prices jumped nearly 13% in March to a new record high as the war in Ukraine, a major exporter of wheat and corn, pushed up grain prices, the U.N. food agency said.
Egg prices are expected to stay elevated, producers said, as it will take months to resume operations on infected farms. Infections also hamper work at facilities that process shell eggs into products like dried eggs and liquid eggs used in food items such as cake and pancake mixes and egg sandwiches.
“The product industry is in a general panic,” said Marcus Rust, chief executive of Rose Acre Farms, the second-largest U.S. egg producer. The company lost about 1.5 million egg-laying chickens at an Iowa farm infected by bird flu, which also sidelined a processing plant, he said.