Food producers scramble for more eggs

17 Oct 2023

15 October 2023
Sunday Times
by Khulekani Magubane

You may have to order a chop instead of eggs with your morning fry-up at your favourite brekkie spot, but you can still lavish mayonnaise on your potato salad for tonight’s braai ahead of the big Bok match. However, with the supply of eggs dwindling, that may not be the case for long. Restaurant chains, retailers and food producers are working hard to secure reliable, quality egg supplies as the avian flu out, break has decimated laying hens. They are looking at new suppliers and egg substitutes, and failing that are serving up creative breakfast menus sans the protein.

Spur Corporation CEO Val Nichas told Business Times this week “we have a wider range of protein options, with consumers able to select ribs, steak, chops and various other options".

“We are identifying alternative products and [amending] recipes where possible. For example, we have two recipes for our waffle mix, one with eggs and one without". The restaurant group is concerned about the impact of the outbreak and is working with as many suppliers as possible to soften the blow, Nichas said, adding that the business didn‘t have a shortage of eggs now, but is monitoring the situation daily.

Spur Corporation owns Spur Steak Ranches, Panarottis, John Dory's and RocoMamas. Nichas said that while shelf life and logistics in supply are sensitive, the group has a solution that will allow its restaurants to continue offering eggs. “We have secured additional eggs through our central supply , eggs have a 25 day shelf life. We have also secured additional stock of chicken through our central supplier, which ensures our restaurants are buying stock from a source that is traceable and reliable to ensure product quality, Nichas said. Famous Brands, which owns Wimpy Tashas and Steers said :  "The situation is fluid so we have no Insights to offer at this time".

Retailers are also working hard to keep eggs on shelves and have been rationing purchases. Spar Group divisional commodities manager Jacques Roets said while the retailer's supply has been impacted, the business is addressing this by collaborating with existing suppliers and exploring new opportunities to ensure consistency. "Spar's primary approach to avoiding any further egg shortage is to work closely with our approved private- label suppliers to secure stock that aligns with our normal average demand." he said.

The group has initiated discussions with several Southern African countries to potentially import eggs to minimize disruptions and meet customer's needs, Roets added. "Our suppliers are acutely aware of the escalating spread or avian influenza within the South African poultry industry. As circumstances evolve and the availability of poultry products is inevitably impacted, our suppliers are committed to making every effort to maintain the supply of products to our existing customers and partners, based on historical supply patterns.

Tiger Brands chief growth officer Thushen Govender said with "the supply of eggs currently constrained due to the avian flu outbreak , Tiger Brands has contingency supply measures In place and continues to produce key items in its range of mayonnaise product". Tiger Brands products that require eggs include Fatti's & Moni's pasta and Crosse & Blackwell mayonnaise.

The International Trade Administration Commission (ITAC) will consider a rebate on chicken Imports to alleviate that shortage, but ITAC Commissioner Ayabonga Cawe said last week that eggs are already duty-free.

Paul Matthew, CEO or the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters SA, said last week the association has been looking for possible markets from which to import eggs. One is Brazil and discussions with its embassy have started. However , pricing pressures may dampen any plans businesses have to supplement supplies with imports as the inflated price of egg products from the Netherlands, Italy and France keeps import values elevated.

A South African Poultry Association (Sapa) report shows that while the value of egg imports into South Africa was relatively stable at R112.8m to R112m between 2021 and 2022, the volumes of egg imports fell drastically, from, 1,238 tonnes to 752 tonnes, in the same period.

"The war in Ukraine will continue to have an impact. Feed prices will remain relatively high and HPAI (high pathogenicity avian influenza) will continue to disrupt supply chains and trade, consumers will shift towards cheaper options”, according to an assessment by financial services company Rabobank in the Sapa report.

Sapa board member and chair of the association's egg organization Willie Bosoga said in the Sapa report that egg prices will rise further to compensate for astronomical feed bills. "There will be resistance from struggling consumers. Many people go hungry every day and the large retail mark-up is still a bone of contention," Bosoga said.