Bird flu prompts first shipment of EU eggs to US in decades

Egg markets face disruption across Europe as the US seeks to replace supplies lost from outbreaks of bird flu, traders have warned.

It has lost about 35 million laying hens – 10% of its national flock – to avian influenza since January, creating an acute supply shortage.

As a result, it has granted access to the Netherlands for egg product sooner than expected. It is understood that Germany may also be sending egg to the US.

On 1 June, the United States Department of Agriculture granted approval for five Dutch companies to export their egg for the first time since 1987. 

Hubert Andela, president of ANEVEI, the Dutch Association of Egg Traders, said the country had been trying to sell to the US for some time. 

See also: How egg producers can attract new markets

“Prices for egg white powder in the US have been around double that of the EU for two years; that is why we began the process to gain market access,” he told Poultry World.

That sudden granting of access was welcome, he added, but it would disrupt domestic and intra-European trade.

He urged caution to producers thinking of expanding, suggesting it was difficult to tell when normal production would resume in the US, and that other countries could win access. 

Cory Martin, of the American Bakers’ Association, which campaigned for access to the Netherlands, said it was a “big step” but more needed to be done to alleviate supply issues.

He called on the US government to seek out more markets for egg product. 

“We are facing a true crisis, and without additional actions to increase supply, bakers and many other food manufacturers face dire situations in the coming weeks and months,” added Mr Martin.

Dutch egg producers normally export two-thirds of their output, with the main market being Germany.

One estimate suggested about 1% of its output – equivalent to 100m eggs – could be shipped to the US.

The US is not the only country looking to Europe for egg products, with Spain and Portugal enjoying buoyant trade to third countries as a result of their AI-free status.

Andy Crossland, of the Central Egg Agency, said domestic colony prices had improved in the past few weeks, largely because of demand outside Britain.

“The UK is pretty short of colony at the moment,” he said. “A few birds went early around Easter because prices were falling, and retailer demand was not strong.”

Prices had since rallied, he added, with some noting “enquiries” on the Continent for UK eggs.

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