Czech poultry farmers scramble to meet Polish egg shortfall

Photo: Sanja Gjenero / freeimages

Czech poultry farmers have been recording a sharp increase in demand for eggs, following a salmonella outbreak in Europe linked to eggs from Poland. Some three million eggs from a Polish supplier were recalled from supermarkets around the Czech Republic due to the threat of salmonella. However, Czech farmers are unable to meet the growing demand due to their own low production.

Photo: Sanja Gjenero / freeimages
The Czech State Veterinary Administration last Tuesday ordered an immediate recall of approximately 2.67 million eggs from Poland which may have been sold at Tesco, Albert, and Kaufland supermarket chains due to the threat of salmonella. Some 150 people throughout the EU have been affected by an ongoing salmonella outbreak but only recently has the source been traced back to the Polish supplier. So far, hygiene officers in the Czech Republic have no specific information about salmonella cases linked to the Polish eggs.

According to Gabriela Dlouhá of the Czech Moravian Poultry Union, Czech egg farmers are unable to meet the growing demand because they had been forced to cut production in the past due to the surplus of imports from the Polish market.

“Of course we have recorded a significant increase in demand for eggs. Unfortunately, we don’t have the capacity to fulfil this immediate demand, because of long-term low prices of eggs we were forced to cut down the number of laying hens and diminish egg production.”

Czech egg producers have been complaining about increased imports of cheap eggs, mainly from Poland, undermining their business, arguing that imported eggs are being sold at less than production costs, making it impossible for them to make a living. Last year, some 800 million eggs were imported to the Czech Republic, an increase by 123 million on the previous year.

Gabriela Dlouhá,  photo: Czech Television
According to data from the Czech Statistics Office released this April, the number of chickens in the Czech Republic dropped by 2.9 percent on the previous year to 6.12 million.

According to Ms Dlouhá, local egg production could be increased but it would take at least nine months to do so, adding that by that time, supermarkets might no longer be interested and return to eggs imported from Poland.

“We already had a problem with this particular Polish egg supplier, which imported the contaminated eggs, in the past. I think it depends on the prices whether the supermarkets will keep taking Czech eggs or eventually return to the imported ones.”

The Czech Republic and Poland have been arguing over the quality of food imports for years. Czech authorities have repeatedly complained about poor quality of Polish foodstuffs, while Polish officials accused them of waging a campaign aimed at hurting Polish food sales in the country.