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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist


Woolworths limits eggs you can buy: here’s how many and how much it’ll cost

Shelves of eggs are running low, and sometimes empty. When eggs are available, customers can only buy smaller cartons.


As South Africa battles its worst-ever avian influenza outbreak, retailer Woolworth has started rationing how many eggs customers can buy.

On Tuesday, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Thoko Didiza said the impact of the avian flu on egg prices won’t be “that adverse”, despite widespread shortages and the cost rising sharply over the past few months.

Shelves of eggs are running low, and sometimes empty. When eggs are available, customers have reportedly only being able to buy smaller cartons.

In a move to prevent shelves running empty, Woolworths has announced a temporary restriction on how many eggs you can buy.

“Due to the shortage of eggs caused by the avian flu, we need to prioritise the use of available whole eggs that meet our standards of food safety and quality for Woolies products made with eggs.

“As a temporary measure, we therefore have to limit whole egg purchases to 1 pack of six eggs per customer.

“We are working with our farmers to ensure regular supply returns as soon as possible”. 

At the time of writing this story, the price of six eggs at Woolworths was between R25 for a free-range mixed-size carton to R48 for a carton of jumbo eggs.

Retailer Pick n Pay said it was also planning to limit the amount of eggs consumers can buy to around one or two packs per customer, depending on the region, while Shoprite said it had no plans to do so yet.

A carton of six eggs at Pick n Pay is between R25 for large size and R30 for Canola large eggs.

Egg rationing

Commercial director for Woolworths food Chan Pillay told eNCA they have already started rationing eggs to customers.

“We’ve seen the impact of the avian flu particularly in Gauteng and KZN and we’ve taken a decision to prioritise all products that use eggs first and therefore had to go down a road of being able to ration six per customer to ensure that we got sufficient availability for our overall customer base.

Watch: Woolworths to limit number of eggs customers can buy:

“From an overall eggs supply point of view, what we’ve needed to do is review our volumes across the country and ensure all our supplier’s partners that are stationed across the country have sufficient eggs,” said Pillay.

ALSO READ: Bird flu impact on egg prices won’t be ‘that adverse’ – Didiza

Impact

Didiza claimed government was working to ensure the impact was not severe.

“Government, working with industry, are ensuring that there is not going to be any adverse impact in terms of shortage or what they need… If there is any scarcity, you know that there would always be an impact. But we don’t think it would be that adverse. That’s the discussion we have been having with all the role players that are affected.

“Working with the Department of Trade and Industry Minister (Ebrahim) Patel, we are also looking at other instruments which are trade-related so that it eases the importation of both eggs, fertilised eggs, table eggs as well as chicken so that indeed we eliminate the problem that may cause an unnecessary spike in the pricing,” said Didiza.

Egg shelves are empty at a Checkers store in Craighall, Johannesburg. Picture: Supplied
Egg shelves are empty at a Checkers store in Craighall, Johannesburg. Picture: Supplied

Supply constraints

On Monday, the Department of Agriculture said it was evident from its meeting with retailers that the main challenge was on the production side, with supply constraints in some regions.

The department’s spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo said: “In response to this challenge, the minister is focusing on measures to improve the availability of egg supply to consumers and simultaneously putting measures to contain the spread of the disease. Moreover, the minister is embarking on the efficiency improvement in issuing import permits for egg products to ensure sufficient supplies for consumers.”

Bird flu

Earlier this month, the South African Poultry Association said the country was contending with two different strains of the avian flu virus, the infamous H5N1 and a new strain identified as H7N6.

The association said the number of avian flu cases in South Africa was higher this year than in any other year since the first outbreaks were reported in commercial farms in 2017.

ALSO READ: Bird flu cracks supply of eggs in some of parts of SA

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agriculture bird flu eggs Thoko Didiza Woolworths