As a result of the war unfolding in Ukraine, Israeli importation of eggs from the Eastern European nation has been halted. Eggs from Ukraine, which are generally considered to be cheap, make up about a third of all eggs imported to Israel.
Ukrainian commercial exports have been put on hold as Russian forces continue to operate in rural areas, dealing a harsh blow to the egg industry and stopping the harvest of grains, which would normally be at its peak. Israeli grain and egg importers report that the damage to the Ukrainian agricultural industry and infrastructure could have a dramatic impact on the supply and distribution of grains used for chicken feed.
Egg prices in Europe have risen by 35% following the onset of the war in Ukraine, and egg importers expect prices to continue rising. Day-to-day egg consumption in Israel is supplied by the local market, and importation is limited to the High Holidays and Passover, when egg consumption rises temporarily.
Egg importers are currently preparing to provide for the anticipated rise in egg consumption around Passover, which begins on April 15 this year. The Ministry of Agriculture recently approved a quota for the importation of 140 million eggs without import taxes. The Ministry noted that the quota will be expanded as long as demand outpaces domestic production.
Spain and Portugal are the nations most likely to make up for the absence of eggs from Ukraine. Both countries have significant production capabilities and are approved to export eggs to Israel by the Agriculture Ministry’s veterinary services. However, egg importers are closely monitoring the spread of bird flu and salmonella in many locations in Europe, which could affect the availability of imports from Spain.
The Ministry of Agriculture has recently sought to open the market to year-round egg imports as part of the agricultural reform. Last week ,Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman signed an order opening a quota for the importation of 1 billion eggs without import fees in 2022. At the same time, Agriculture Minister Oded Forer raised domestic egg production quotas from 2.3 million per year to 3 million per year.
According to predictions from the Poultry Farmers’ Council, Israeli egg consumption will exceed domestic supply by 31 million eggs from the period of March to May 2022. From June to December, however, domestic production is expected to produce a surplus of 73 million eggs beyond what is needed to meet local demand. These forecasts do not take into account the Agriculture Ministry’s expanded quota for domestic production or the Finance Ministry’s approval of increased imports.
Local poultry farmers worry that these moves will flood the market with massive surpluses which will put their livelihoods in jeopardy. Many of them claim that the current situation in Ukraine serves as a prime example of the dangers behind the increasing reliance on egg imports being pushed by the Ministers of Finance and Agriculture.
According to the poultry farmers, opening the market to unrestricted importation, mainly from Ukraine, would not only wipe out Israeli growers, but would also lead to a dangerous dependence on foreign products in the face of geopolitical and climatic developments beyond Israel’s control.
According to Miki Lasser, CEO of the company M. Lasser which accounts for 30% of Israeli sales of eggs and egg-products, “reform in the egg industry is important and could benefit the market, as long as it is carried out in partnership with farmers and not against them.”
“A reform focused on shifting the egg market to be based primarily on imports, at the expense of Israeli production, will not only fail to benefit consumers, but could actually harm them, as we are clearly seeing right now with the prices of eggs from Europe shooting up by 35% and continuing to rise,” Lasser added.
“The implementation of this reform could make eggs, the cheapest and most nutritious food product, temporarily unavailable and could damage year-round supply.”
This article was translated from Hebrew by Sam Edelman.