The number of laying hens nationally has dropped from 4.2 million at the end of last year, to 3.6 million, a 17 per cent drop in production that has led to a national shortage.
The Poultry Industry Association attributes the problem to supply. Executive director Michael Brooks said prices will rise because of the shortage. The drop is attributed to two reasons, according to Brooks.
New rules introduced seven years ago in New Zealand phased out battery cages for hens by 2022. Farmers had to meet a series of deadlines to give hens more space.
According to the association, the significant costs faced by poultry farmers forced them to reduce flock sizes.
“There are costs in terms of new land, new farming systems, and a lot of farmers have really got some big and very costly decisions to make – and that’s had an impact on supply, and that is part of the issue that’s leading to this supply issue at the moment.”
Slow resource consent processes had also held up many developments, and affected new-comers, he said.
New Zealanders are also consuming more eggs, according to Brooks, which is attributed to nutritionists recommending eggs over sugary breakfast cereals.
In 2009 New Zealanders ate about 200 eggs each a year, but now we get through about 226 a year each.
“We produce one billion eggs a year. We’re big egg eaters, it’s a cost effective form of protein, and New Zealanders like eggs,” he said.
Hens take about five months to go from hatching to producing their own eggs, and he estimates the egg supply should be back to normal in about six months.
But he expects the shortage could be repeated in coming years, as farmers are more vulnerable while they work toward the final 2022 tightening of cage rules, and this would produce more noticeable ebbs and flows in flock numbers and supply.
About 30 percent of eggs sold in New Zealand were cage free, and demand had been noticeably increasing for some time, according to retailers.