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Ian Wilson, Fremantle Egg Co and Peter Bell, Golden Eggs, have spent their lives in the WA egg industry and both have never seen it tougher.
WA eggs shattered
Golden Eggs MD Peter Bell says the current trading period is the worst he’s ever experienced.
WITH feed grain input costs at horror highs and supermarkets savaging suppliers, even the big, established players in Western Australia’s egg industry are struggling to crack a smile, as they watch, typically help- lessly, as turnover tips and profits plunge.
The growing number of imported eggs on WA supermarket shelves is threatening the viability of an already struggling local industry, egg pro- ducers are warning, ac- cording to a recent report on ABC WA Country Hour by Richard Hud- son and Joanna Pren- dergast: “It’s a difficult time for producers who say they’re grappling with higher feed costs, lower prices, uncertainty around industry stand- ards and now increasing competition from inter- state suppliers.”
Golden Eggs, WA’s largest egg producer and marketer, whose farms daily produce about one
Cant Comment
million eggs in free range and caged systems, is feeling the pinch, with managing director Pe- ter Bell telling the ABC WA’s egg industry is un- der immense pressure.
“We recently lost a contract to supply eggs to Coles, which is now bringing a lot of free range and caged eggs into WA from the eastern states,” he said.
It is understood Wool- worths is still largely sup- porting WA egg produc- ers, as is Aldi.
“I’ve been involved in
egg production all my life and this is the toughest period I’ve been through,” Mr Bell said, explaining that the pressure to switch from caged to free range systems had led to an over- supply in Australia.
“In this transition pe- riod, there has been an increase in free range egg production, but no real decrease in the number of caged or barn laid eggs appearing on supermar- ket shelves.”
Coles would not dis- close to the ABC how many of its free range and caged eggs sold in WA supermarkets were from WA.
In a written statement, however, Coles said it supported WA farmers and regularly sourced fresh produce from WA for sale in other states.
“The majority of eggs sold by Coles in WA are sourced from WA farm- ers,” it said.
“Coles reduced the price of Coles brand free range eggs nationally in June 2017.”
Joseph Sacca of For- restdale Farm Fresh Eggs, who has been a commer- cial caged egg producer for almost 30 years, told the ABC that when he be- gan in the industry he was receiving $2 a dozen, but recently he received $1.20.
“We can’t increase our prices because supermar- kets request prices below last year’s prices, and you can’t go below last year’s prices,” Sacca said.
It’s impossible.
“They’re treating the egg industry like they did
the milk industry. “There’s not much you
can do.
“I know that for some
of the people who supply the industry now, they’ve got to be careful not to complain because if they complain their contract is cancelled.”
Mr Sacca said industry needed clear direction over what type of eggs would be supported by supermarkets and gov- ernments.
Nonetheless, he has taken what he called the risk of investing in en- richment cages, but said it was very expensive.
He had already spent $11.5 million dollars to fully renovate the whole farm to current govern- ment standards.
Golden Eggs’ Mr Bell agreed it was a difficult decision to make.
“As far as I know, Joe Sacca is the first egg producer in Australia to invest in enriched cages, but some supermarkets and animal rights groups are saying they’re still cages so they’re not ac- ceptable,” he told ABC.
Record high feed prices on the back of the drought in the eastern states is adding to the pressure on egg farmers’ margins.
Egg Farmers of Austral- ia Chief Executive John Dunn said eastern states eggs on WA supermarket shelves would damage the WA egg industry, which produces about 8 percent of Australia’s eggs.
“If it continues I’d sug- gest it has the capacity to compound what’s already occurring,” he said.
“Some farms are fac- ing the very real prospect of shutting down and if egg farmers in WA con- tinue to have the market flooded with eggs from the east then I’d say the risk of farms closing is increased tenfold.
“It’s a lot of farms, a lot of eggs and it’s also a lot of jobs.
“All those things would be on the line.”
Mr Dunn said super- markets and egg farmers could work more collabo- ratively and the industry had recently called for an egg price increase.
“If there is an egg farm- er making money right now, I haven’t met them,” he said.
Egg Farmers of Austral- ia is the national producer representative body, rep- resenting about 85 per-
cent of egg farmers.
It is voluntarily funded by industry and in the wake of the drought and high prices contributions
have dried up.
Mr Dunn said this
meant the group could not afford to retain his role and that of admin- istrative assistant Angela Griffin.
However, he said the organisation was deter- mined to retain its role in lobbying government and representing industry, but this would now be done by the member board.
“What makes hard times harder is when sol- utions are really limited and that’s the situation that makes this a genuine crisis,” he said.
“No one controls the rainfall that comes out of the sky, but everything in every person’s pantry relies on that occurring on a regular basis.
“This drought can’t be fixed and the pressures on farmers will continue for some time.”
Fremantle Egg Compa- ny’s Ian Wilson, a fourth- generation egg producer at Munster, just south of Fre- mantle in WA, says chick- en feed is costing him an additional $1600 every 10 days, compared with the same time last year.
“I’d say it’s as tough as it has ever been at the minute,” Ian told the A BC.
“Getting margins from the bigger retailers is very hard – they’re share- holder-driven and unfor- tunately it comes back to the farmers to bear the brunt of a lot of the cost savings they make.
“This is the highest we’ve ever had to pay for feed.
“When there has been any price hikes in the past it has never been to this level.
“There is definitely a point where you can’t wear the cut in profit any longer and we have to put the prices up otherwise we can’t pay our credi- tors.”
Fremantle Egg Com- pany produces about 12,000 eggs a day from its 14,000 Hyline Brown hens, which lay for about 70 weeks, before being turned over, many going to comfortable backyard homes to enjoy ‘semi- retirement’.
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NPN would like to thank all advertisers, producers and contributors
for their support in 2018.
We also wish everyone
a safe and merry Christmas and happy New Year.
The February 2019 edition will be available to view online and posted on February 8, 2019.
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Page 4 – National Poultry Newspaper, December 2018/January 2019

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