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Suppliers left scrambling

The national egg shortage has hit Wairarapa, with local farmers close to cracking under the pressure as demand for free-range eggs reaches fever-pitch.

A ban on battery-caged hens, signalled by the government in 2012, came into effect at the end of last year and has subsequently caused chaos in the industry.

Egg Producers Federation executive director Michael Brooks told national media that more than 75 per cent of chicken farmers had to change their farming methods or career as a result of the ban.

Supermarkets across Wairarapa yesterday were weathering the slump in the nation’s egg supply, with New World and Pak‘NSave implementing two-per-person limits on egg products, while Masterton’s Moore Wilsons manager had noticed a significant increase in egg shoppers.

“People that don’t normally shop here are coming. We only have one supplier that is a colony farmer, the rest are free-range.”

She said there was concern about maintaining supply for regular and trade customers and said Moore Wilsons’ head office had signalled limits on egg purchases in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Martinborough’s Pain and Kershaw owner Conor Kershaw said he believed the worst was over.

“We have been cage-free since 2013, and we are lucky to have great local suppliers to work with. We don’t seem to have any major problems locally.”

He said the store had only been out of stock once over Christmas and New Year.

Wairarapa Eggs, one of the region’s largest free-range egg suppliers, was unavailable for comment but advised customers it was currently grappling with increased demand and has temporarily implemented an extended cut-off time for ordering.

Masterton Ten O’Clock Cookie owner John Kloeg said Wairarapa Eggs was currently shielding the bakery from the worst of the supply shortage.

“We would probably get about 400 free-range eggs and about 1500 free-range seconds, which are thinner on the shell, a week. Also, a 10-litre bladder of egg pulp we use in baking.

“Wairarapa Eggs is looking after us. But at the moment, everyone is clamouring for eggs, and everybody goes to them.”

Kloeg said the battery-cage ban and ensuing supply slump had a flow-on effect on other egg products and the bakery’s bottom line.

“There is a shortage of mayonnaise at the moment. We use 15L a week, and our regular supplier doesn’t have any, so then you have to find it in other places.

“Generally, you are working on margins with what you can get locally, and now that you have to hunt around, your margin goes down because it is more expensive elsewhere.”

Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said the National government announced the battery-cage ban after a review by the Independent National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.

“The transition to colony cages, barns, or free-range systems was phased over 10 years to give producers time to make the changes in a way that could minimise the impact to their business and any possible cost to consumers.”

He said it was important to note the multiple factors at play in the current egg shortage.

“For example, Woolworths and Foodstuffs, both major customers of these egg producers, have gone further than the regulated minimum standards and will only purchase free-range eggs [in the next couple of years].”

Last year, Stuff reported Countdown’s goal of being completely cage-free by 2025, while Foodstuffs, which owns Pak’NSave and New World, said it is aiming to be fully cage-free by 2027.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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