Fred Hume, managing director of Hume International, says local egg producers are underplaying the seriousness of the country’s egg shortage.
Hume believes that the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development made some erroneous statements in the midst of the bird flu outbreak for which they will now have to face up.
According to reports, approximately 7.5 million commercial laying hens have been culled due to the outbreak of bird flu in South Africa.
“If one hen lays five or six eggs a week, then the local market is underproducing as much as 45 million eggs a week. Yet the public is being told that there is nothing to fear,” a worried Hume points out.
Hume is also critical of SAPA’s appeal to the government to open up imports from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola and Malawi as these four countries, according to Hume International’s calculations, only produce about one metric ton per week.
Hume believes South Africa needs an influx of at least 2.25 metric tons to compensate for the current egg shortage. “We also do not have a clear picture of what the bird flu situation is like in these countries, and it is highly doubtful whether they will sell all their available eggs to South Africa.”
Hume says South Africa simply cannot rely on its Southern African Development Community (SADC) partners alone to help it out of this developing crisis.
He therefore proposes that the current restrictions on imports from large egg producers such as Argentina, Brazil, the USA and Eswatini be lifted.
RNews previously reported that Thoko Didiza, minister of agriculture, land reform and rural development, in October gave permission for table eggs, fertilized eggs and poultry meat to be imported from elsewhere to ensure that (amidst the bird flu outbreak) there is sufficient stock for the upcoming is holiday time.
Since September 1, Didiza’s department has already issued 115 permits for fertilized eggs, 48 permits for egg powder, 2,406 permits for poultry meat and 24 permits for table eggs.
However, Hume now wants to know how the department will supplement the deficit of 28 million eggs without lifting the trade restrictions on the country’s much larger South American trading partners.
Hume also questions SAPA’s claim that “rotten eggs” were dumped in the country by South American exporters during the previous bird flu outbreak in 2017. Hume believes the claim paints a deceptive picture of the current situation.
“Hume, like our South African poultry importing contemporaries, follows strict regulations on the grading, packaging and marking of imported eggs, as set out in regulation 345 of the department.
“Simply put, if we import eggs of poor quality, we risk losing millions of rand, which is why we strive to ensure that only high-grade eggs enter the country, and no dumping takes place. This essentially allows the market to regulate itself.
“The only real way out of this situation is for the South African government to step in and rein in the department’s strict anti-competition policy, lift the 40-day rule under regulation 345 and impose import restrictions and anti-dumping duties on certain countries relieved.
“These measures will ensure that the egg shortage and impending poultry meat shortage are resolved as soon as possible,” says Hume.