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Coronavirus, duty-free Ugandan imports break egg prices in Kenya

tray of eggs
A tray of eggs is currently retailing at between Sh250 and Sh255, down from Sh310 in March. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

The cost of eggs has dropped by nearly 20 percent since March following the closure of hotels and learning institutions due to fears over the possible spread of the Coronavirus and increased duty-free imports from Uganda.

A tray of eggs is currently retailing at between Sh250 and Sh255, down from Sh310 in March in farm-gate prices due to depressed demand and over-supply from the neighbouring country.

Farmers say that the over-supply has been occasioned by a dip in demand while most middlemen have also turned to Uganda where a tray of eggs goes for as low as Sh200 due to lower cost of production compared to Kenya.

A spot-check shows that supermarkets are selling at an average of Sh350 per tray for the layers eggs and traders operating by the roadside are selling at an average of Sh270 per tray or just above Sh10 each.

Felix Juma, a chicken farmer in Kajiado County, said that while demand had fallen starting March due to closure of hotels, eateries and learning institutions— the biggest market for eggs — production had remained steady leading to a glut and the subsequent slide in prices.

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Kenya closed all learning institutions on March 15 while high-end hotels closed two weeks later in the wake of travel restrictions and social distancing rules introduced by the government to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“The biggest buyers of eggs are hotels and schools and if you take these two from the equation, then as farmers we have now been forced to compete amongst ourselves and sell at drastically low prices,” said Mr Juma, who rears about 5,000 broiler chicken.

The closure of hotels and restaurants, restrictions on markets and movements in major counties, including Nairobi, has led to job losses and salary cuts, further hurting the purchasing power of many workers.

A chicken farmers’ lobby group, the Federation of Kenya Poultry Farmers (FKPF), has now urged the government to ban all eggs and chicken meat imports from Uganda to cushion local farmers. “Eggs from Uganda do not attract taxes and they have flooded the market. We are asking the government to stop all eggs and chicken meat imports from Uganda, or if not put some tax on them,” said Patrick Githinji, an official at the lobby group.

Farmers have lamented that most of them will be out of business under the prevailing environment, and that the high cost of production that includes chicken feed, water, electricity and casual labourers had further hit their businesses.

In the last two weeks, hotels and eateries have started resuming business as Kenya following the easing of restrictions on movements and social distancing in what is set to fuel fresh demand for eggs. This week, they were allowed to extend working hours to 7.30pm, giving them room to sell more food.

President Uhuru Kenyatta last week directed top State officials to fast-track consultations with key stakeholders for gradual reopening of schools, raising hopes for various players in the economy, including chicken farmers. Kenya has so far confirmed 4,044 positive cases of Covid-19 and 107 deaths — the highest in East Africa.

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