By Orville Williams
The impending price increase on eggs – set to go into effect next Monday – has been described as “unavoidable” by Agriculture Minister, Samantha Marshall.
From July 25, the cost of a dozen eggs will rise from EC$10 to $12, or $360 per case, when purchased directly from the farms, and it is widely expected that a subsequent increase will be seen at the supermarket level.
Marshall addressed the matter during yesterday’s post-Cabinet media briefing, explaining that various logistical challenges, including rising fuel and raw material costs, have left the farmers with no choice but to increase the price.
She noted, too, that despite consistently supporting the farmers’ operations, the government’s hands are essentially tied at this point.
“The government gives a number of concessions and subsidies to farmers, [but] the situation now with the egg farmers is that they’re faced with the increased cost of feed and transportation of the feed – no one here on island produces feed, so that has to be imported.
“We have tried to work with them [and] we were hoping they would be able to bear this a bit, but unfortunately, they’ve indicated they cannot manage anymore with the constant increases. Since they last met with Cabinet, I believe they’ve suffered at least two additional increases in the cost of feed, so on that basis they are forced to increase their price.
“The increase, though unfortunate, is one that we can do no more on our end to [prevent],” Marshall insisted.
During the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cost of a dozen eggs rose from $8 to $10, and the sustained logistical pressures – from the pandemic, the Ukraine crisis and global inflation – have not allowed that increase to be reversed.
Marshall, who served as this week’s interim Cabinet spokesperson, noted that the government is hopeful this latest increase will not be a permanent one, and that prices could be reduced once the logistical issues gradually subside.
She also urged residents to support farmers directly during this time, and called on the supermarkets to maintain current prices for as long as possible.
“What we hope is that if the situation changes and the cost reduces [on the farmers’ end], they will be able to pass on [the savings] to the consumers by reducing their cost once again. We see this as a temporary situation and would hope that it remains that way.
“Given that eggs are what we definitely know we produce, we’re self-sustainable in eggs, [we hope] that as much as possible our people [will] support our egg farmers. I know that they’ve said you can purchase directly from farmers.
“We would [also] hope that the supermarkets will not unnecessarily increase the cost thereon and that they will try to keep the price as stable as possible,” she said.
The Agriculture Minister also reaffirmed her administration’s commitment to supporting farmers, referring to the latest initiative – a lease granted for a property on Jonas Road – as a means of improving the country’s food security.
“That is to ensure [the egg farmers] will have an opportunity to develop a storage unit where they’re able to store eggs, so that there is a consistent, sustainable supply of eggs,” Marshall noted.
In the announcement of the impending price rise, the Antigua and Barbuda Layers Association also revealed that pasture-raised eggs will be slightly more expensive too, at $15 per dozen when purchased directly from the farm.