Business Maverick


Egg prices spike more than 13% in October as avian flu scrambles supplies

Egg prices spike more than 13% in October as avian flu scrambles supplies
(Photo: Unsplash / Erol Ahmed)

Egg prices in October soared in the face of shortages linked to the culling of millions of chickens to contain the spread of avian flu. Prices of other food groups, notably potatoes, remain on the boil, while the price of meat is cooling.

If you like hash browns with your eggs in the morning, you are forking out a lot more for breakfast these days. But if you like, say, a steak in this mix (we are talking big, weekend breakfast/brunches here), the price you pay for it will be easier to swallow. 

Food price inflation in South Africa is accelerating once again, rising to 8.8% in October from 8% in September. This helped to drive the headline CPI number in October to 5.9% from 5.4% in September. Potatoes and eggs are leading the way.

Read more in Daily Maverick: CPI races to 5.9%, posing a fresh dilemma for SA Reserve Bank ahead of rate decision

“Egg prices rose sharply in October, with the price index increasing by 13.4% from September. This pushed the annual rate to 24.4%,” Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said on Wednesday. 

This is a consequence of domestic avian flu outbreaks which have triggered the culling of millions of chickens and prompted panic buying of eggs. 

The price increases have regional variations.

“Western Cape consumers felt the most pain, with a tray of six eggs rising by R6.42 from an average price of R17.71 in October 2022 to R24.13 in October 2023. Gauteng consumers had to fork out an additional R4.81 over the same period. At an average price of R24.32, a tray of six eggs was the most expensive in Gauteng during October,” Stats SA said.

Of the seven provinces surveyed on this front, only the Free State saw a decline in egg prices in October. 

Potato prices have been rising even faster. 

“Potatoes recorded a price increase of 21.2% between September and October. This took the annual rate for the vegetable to 64.6%. The average price for potatoes increased by R8.89 from R13.93 per kilogram in October 2022 to R22.82 per kilogram in October 2023,” Stats SA said. 

Wandile Sihlobo, the chief economist of the Agricultural Business Chamber of South Africa, told Daily Maverick that this stemmed from irrigation problems earlier this year linked to power outages in northern growing regions.

“We had bad quality up north because of irrigation interruptions earlier in the year. This led to lower volumes delivered into fresh produce markets over the past two months,” Sihlobo said. 

“But the supply has now normalised at farm level, and over the past two weeks, the volumes were back at normal levels in markets, and prices have dropped to below R100 a bag of potatoes from over R150 in October and the first week of November. So, this is a temporary blip.” 

The egg shortages were also being addressed, with the bird flu outbreaks now under control and fertilised hatchling eggs being imported, the Department of Agriculture said last week. 

Hopefully, the eggflation and spudflation will subside and follow the trajectory of meat. 

On an annual basis, meat prices on average rose by 3.4% in October. That, at least, bodes well for the festive braai season. DM


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