The shadow of inflation continues to darken the finances of Latin Americans. It’s no secret that the basic cost of living has risen for everyone around the world, and while it has slowed, parents across the Americas are still feeling the pinch, especially when they see the prices of eggs.
At the end of 2022, in the United States the amount to pay for a carton of eggs increased to 59%. It was the largest year-on-year increase in food prices, according to a report from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). In South America, specifically in Argentina, it had a variation of 158%, and only in January 2023 it increased between 35% and 45% in retail stores.
This is a reality that equally affects all the Americas, including the Caribbean. Although inflation has made the egg a reference for high prices, it is not the only variable. One of the main factors driving the increase in food product costs is the spread of an avian influenza virus, which began in early 2022 and has persisted to date.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that nearly 58 million birds, including more than 40 million laying hens, have died from the virus in at least 47 US states.
This is a reality throughout the United States. As a result, egg production dropped to 8.87 billion in November 2022 from more than 9.3 billion a year earlier, according to USDA.
In Colombia, it went from 17,028 million to 16,260 million, making per capita consumption shuffle from 334 to 315 units per year, with a reduction of 19 units.
North and Central America
In addition to bird flu, which is to blame for rising egg prices, other inflationary pressures such as energy, transport and feed costs have also pushed prices up. However, another reason, in addition to the eating habits of consumers, are local laws, such as in the United States, one of the largest egg producers.
In California, egg prices are above $4 for a dozen, due to a law requiring all egg producers to raise cage-free hens. In fact, it is the state with the highest prices, in all establishments, for that product.
To this is added that more than 800,000 birds have been affected and more than a dozen impacted businesses. Massachusetts also has a law that toughens the standards around egg production. There, the dozen costs up to US$3.26.
In Mexico, which is not only one of the largest producers, but also one of the main consumers of eggs in the world, the price of the food registered, in one week, an increase of 15.3% ($5.83 Mexican pesos), standing at $43.83, that is, US$2.43 per kilo, on average, on February 3, reported the Agrifood and Fisheries Information Service (Siap).
As in the US, the value in that country would be seen according to the state. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), in some cities it is reported that a kilo of eggs can cost $100 and in others $50.
Taking into account that an average egg weighs 45 grams, for $100 Mexican pesos the consumer would only be taking 23 units. Inegi indicated that only in 2023 the price of this food rose 26% and from 2020 it would be an increase of 38%.
In Guatemala the picture is the same. In December 2022, the consumer price index (CPI) for eggs stood at 205.05, representing an increase of 18.9% compared to what was registered a year earlier, when it was 172.46. From January to February, the dozen eggs went from Q13 to Q15, which represented an increase of 15%, according to the Consumer Care and Assistance Directorate (Diaco).
According to the daily report on the prices of agricultural products, prepared by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of El Salvador, a 30-unit carton of eggs is US$4.98, while the medium one is US$4.79. On average it would be at US$4.88 at the beginning of March.
Given the high prices, which extend throughout the region, in February, the Honduran government and the National Association of Poultry Farmers of Honduras, (Anavih), agreed to maintain the price of a 30-unit egg carton at 130.00 Lempiras or US$5.27. That large amount already exceeds US$8.02 (CRC$4,457.53) in Costa Rica.
Already in January, a price study by the National Production Council (CNP) revealed an increase of up to 10% in the kilo of eggs, reaching CRC$3,000 in supermarkets depending on the brand. The factors behind the higher prices would lie mainly in the increase in demand for the product and in the cost of feed for laying hens.
In contrast, in Nicaragua a similar product is around US$5.58. A dozen eggs, large, cost NIO$75 or US$2.06. Panama, for its part, was worth US$5.58 in February, or $5.58 balboas.
In Ecuador, due to the disease, the price of eggs increased by around 20%. Before the virus, the price of the bucket was US$2.90. In January, data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) through the Agricultural Public Information System (SIPA) indicated that it was at US$2.95 and currently the value reaches US$3.30.
In the Caribbean, specifically in the Dominican Republic, the price per unit reached RD$7 at the beginning of the year, according to data from the Ministry of Agriculture. That is, about US$0.13, one of the cheapest in the entire American continent. For its part, the carton of 30 eggs can even exceed RD$255 (RD$4.62), depending on the store, the brand and the degree of quality.
As in the United States, and other parts of the continent, in Peru the prices of 30 units may vary. That amount can be between $17 and $20 soles (US$4.76). The kilogram of egg, although it was sold at S/9.50 kg (soles), at the beginning of March it reached S/8.30.
In Colombia, in 2020, it was between $12,000 and $15,000 Colombian pesos. It currently fetches up to $25,000 or about US$5.20. The unit is at $500 pesos or $0.10. A year earlier it was between $250 and $300. In Brazil, at the end of February it was R$174.75 (US$33.51), according to the Center for Advanced Studies in Applied Economics – (Cepea). That positions it among the highest in the region.
Data from the Directorate of Productive Analysis (Dapro) in Bolivia detail that the egg unit was found between Bs$0.83 and Bs0.67, depending on the department (province or state). In dollars it averages $0.10
In December, Paraguay registered prices of PYG$11,450 or US$1.58 for the 12 units, but at the beginning of the year it had increased to PYG$13,000 or US$1.78, while in Uruguay cartons of 30 units are reported between $300 and $368 Uruguayan pesos. Those of 15 units are between $159 and $219 (Uruguayan pesos), depending on the store and the brand. That is, the carton averages US$8.53.
According to the Chilean consumer price index (CPI), the price of eggs increased 34% in January of this year, compared to the price reported in January 2022.
From March to December, the cost per kilo of eggs had consecutive monthly increases, which reached up to 9%. Data from the Ministry of Agriculture, the 12 units average $2,746 at the beginning of March, that is, US$3.43.
Argentina, for its part, in February had a fifth consecutive increase in eggs. A 30-unit carton, which at the end of January cost around $700 and $800, at the beginning of March was between $1,000 and $1,200.
During the year 2022, the price of eggs rose 158%, according to data from the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (Indec). The Argentine Chamber of Poultry Producers, for its part, indicates that the large white egg laid on the farm, costing 12 units, cost $330.26, while the large brown one, laid on the farm, had a value of $347.22, at the end of February of 2023.
Egg production and consumption
The USDA Economic Research Service released egg production results for 2022 and a projection for 2023. In 2022, production was down 0.2%, to 7.719 million. This was 3.2% lower than in 2021 due to the depopulation of approximately 44 million bird flu-infected hens from early spring to mid-December.
Per capita consumption of eggs by 2022 has also decreased. USDA projected egg production in 2023 decreased 0.3% in January to 8.095 million dozen while per capita consumption was 287.4 eggs, down 0.4%. In 2022, egg exports reached 226.5 million dozen, equivalent to 4.3% of production. Even so, it was 42.2% less than the 392 million, or 4.9% of production in 2021.
The forecast for 2023 is 240 million, or 3.0% of production. That is, 5.7% more than in 2022. That year imports reached 25.9 million, 42.8% more than the 14.9 million in 2021. The forecast for 2023 is 26.0 million dozen, almost unchanged from 2022.