Tuesday, July 23, 2024
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Shortage puts us in a pickle

The egg shortage is having nationwide effects, as supermarket shelves lie bare and bakeries crack under the pressure.

As people scramble to get what they can, supermarkets have imposed quantity limits of no more than two cartons per person, whisking my memory back to the early days of covid when cheese, meat and, most critically, toilet paper were all strictly rationed. However, the egg shortage is not caused by covid, but rather a ban on battery-caged hens that was announced in 2012 and came into effect at the end of 2022. As a result, interest in egg-laying chickens has skyrocketed on Trade Me to more than 21,400 searches in the past week, a 129 per cent increase. One anonymous person from Franklin seems to be the one suffering the most from the shortage, according to a message posted to a New Zealand Farming Facebook page.

“My partner and I eat around 150 eggs per week and as you may know, the price of eggs has now picked up a lot, seeing as caged eggs are no longer legal,” the post read.

“We just want to know if there are any egg farmers in the Franklin area who deal direct in eggs? We would usually spend around $120 per week.”

I can’t help but be concerned for someone’s health if they are eating 75 eggs a week. Averaging out at more than 10 eggs a day, I equally wonder how they manage it.

Meanwhile, it’s not just eggs that seem to be in short supply. Recent trips to the supermarket have seen me fail to find bread and certain vegetables. And now the CEO of Potatoes New Zealand [yes, I promise that’s a real position] is warning of a potato shortage. He said the recent wet weather has their concerns raised, as potatoes aren’t good swimmers and do not handle being submerged in water for long periods of time. Access to fields to harvest the crops is also hampered by the weather. Over in Australia, some supermarkets have already begun rationing frozen chips after farmers in Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales all reported about half their usual yields.

Who could have predicted chaotic weather patterns would have an impact on food production? But rest assured that as long as the climate of the future remains predictable and steady, perhaps we will be okay. To quote Lenin, “every society is three meals away from chaos”. I’m not saying a temporary lack of potatoes and eggs puts us on the brink of revolution [unless you are perhaps an overly enthusiastic farmer living in the Franklin area], but food supplies are in jeopardy and production changes must be made as the Anthropocene progresses, whatever they may be. Given what we see already, I remain firm in my belief that capitalism cannot survive environmental collapse, even if it won’t go down without a fight.

But for now just remember that if you do decide to stock up on egg-laying chickens, know you may be stuck with them for a decade or more. A chick is for life, not just for Christmas.

George Shiers
George Shiers
George Shiers is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age interested in politics and social issues. He reports regularly on a range of topics including infrastructure, housing, and transport. George is also the Tararua reporter and helps cover police, fire and court stories.

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