There is a massive glut of eggs on the local market which is being worsened, in part, by an insistence from some business to import liquid eggs instead of buying local.
President of the Barbados Egg and Poultry Producers Association, Stephen Layne, revealed that with tourism still recovering and more people turning to small-scale egg farming, the industry has become saturated.
In fact, the industry representative disclosed that at least one major producer has more than a million eggs in cold storage from the Christmas season.
“One entity told me they have a million eggs. That might sound like a lot, and it is a lot, but it could go in a couple weeks if we had tourist numbers like before,” Layne told Barbados TODAY.
“We have more than enough eggs available coming out of the holidays and the Barbados Egg and Poultry Producers Association has been doing promotions on eggs to have the consumption of eggs go up, because they are very healthy and the cost of the eggs is still low compared to other foods,” he added.
One of the most frustrating factors Layne identified, is an insistence by some large bakeries and a rum cream producer, to import liquid eggs, instead of patronising locals.
“We have had discussions with them, they have admitted that the quality of their end product from local eggs is far superior to bringing in frozen liquid eggs that they have to thaw out and do all of that,” said Layne.
“The challenge is that they can get imported eggs a little cheaper. As long as they can get an import licence, their profit margins would be a little bit better for them. So they would prefer to buy imported liquid eggs, go through all the challenges of thawing them out and only resort back to the local production when they have a problem getting them,” he added.
Layne stressed that although the association is not yet lobbying the government to restrict imports, he warned that farmers were taking note.
“I don’t know how long we will be able to hold our say on that and lobby against it stronger, but as it is now, with COVID and other things, we are not looking to pick any more fights,” Layne declared.
“Increasingly, our members are becoming aware of those companies and shying away from buying anything from those companies, because we can’t keep supporting you if you’re not supporting us.”
Layne also spoke about an influx of “hundreds” of new small-scale egg farmers during the COVID-19 pandemic, presumably because of economic hardship.
“We have a lot of small people who are impacting the market. They won’t get sales in the supermarket, but they are selling to small bakeries and homes, so they would carry their crate of eggs for $18 or $17 and they have been doing well with that. So the demand for eggs is still there, but it’s being met by a lot of small farmers,” said Layne.
He explained that recent increases in egg prices are a direct response to increases in the prices of feed as opposed to securing more profits.
In the meantime, farmers are using the period to get rid of older birds and replace them with new ones that will start producing eggs in another five to six months.
“If the eggs were selling and there was strong demand, you could keep on those birds to ensure that the market is secure and there is no shortage. But when you have excess eggs, you get rid of those unprofitable birds. You would cull them and take them out of the system, get your houses sanitised and ready again for a new flock of birds to put in there again,” Layne concluded. [email protected]