Eggs have been on everyone’s mind, especially after the latest onion fiasco. Supply has been low due to a number of factors, including the spread of avian flu and the resulting reluctance of some growers to continue with their businesses because of this, plus the continually rising cost of feed and so on. “Yung iba, wala nang kapital, yung iba naman, natatakot nang mag-alaga dahil sa taas ng production cost. Kung bumaba man yung presyo ng itlog, malulugi ng malaki. (Some have run out of capital. Others are afraid to raise because of increasing production costs. If egg prices go down, lose a lot of money,” Gregorio San Diego, chairman of the Philippine Egg Board Association said at the Philippine Chamber of Agriculture and Food Inc.’s (PCAFI) monthly presscon.
That said, San Diego projects that though supply may be on the low side, it will remain stable, and though prices may increase, farmgate prices cannot go beyond a threshold, or a price ceiling where a commodity becomes too expensive for the regular person to spend on. At the time of the statement, the farm gate price for medium eggs ranged from ₱6.70 to ₱7.20 per piece. He added that reports of eggs costing as much as ₱10 per piece is the result of retailers charging more than the farm gate price.
He elaborated that farm gate price is based on medium eggs. Not a lot of consumers know that eggs come in different sizes. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous retailers use this to their advantage, selling small eggs as medium ones and so on, and it can be difficult to tell which is which because there is only five grams difference between the two. “I encourage you to eat a lot of eggs so you’re aware of the sizes,” he said.
Almost all of the eggs consumed in the country are produced locally, with only processed eggs such as egg powder for pastries imported. San Diego explained that each layer hen eats about ₱5 worth of feed a day. With the rise in the cost of feed from ₱19 a kilo a few years ago to the current ₱34 along with the rise in production expenses like electricity and other farm expenses, “Hindi kami tumutubo ng malaki, hindi naman kami lumulugi” (We aren’t earning much, but we aren’t losing money, either).
He added that retailers can’t be blamed for increasing the prices of the eggs they sell, as they, like everyone else, need to take home a livable wage. In fact, one of the industry’s fears is that supply might decrease as more people scrimp on food in order to pay for other necessities. “Natiiis na kasi ngayon ang gutom, pero hindi mo matitiis yung bayad sa kuryente, sa tubig, ganun din. Pamasahe, hindi mo matiis yan, hindi ka makakarating sa trabaho. Upa sa bahay, hindi matitiis… yung kanilang budget sa pagkain kasi nga kaya tiisin. (You can stand being hungry, but you can’t delay paying your electricity and water bills. You have to pay commuting fares because you won’t be able to get to work. You have to pay rent… people’s food budgets are lower because it’s something they can stand to give up).”
It’s not only the Philippines that may (emphasis on may) be about to experience an egg shortage. The USA is in the middle of an actual egg shortage at the moment. However, San Diego thinks that the low supply is temporary, and will correct itself once farmers have recovered enough layers to resume regular production.
One hopes that the shortage doesn’t happen, though this scare, hot on the tail of so many agriculture-related issues that have been making headlines lately, should be making more Filipinos wonder about the state of the country’s agriculture industry. One hopes that it leads regular folks to think beyond where they have food that day or not, but also as to whether the country can sustain its own food supply without relying on importation.