Egg prices predicted to surge in the wake of Czech bird flu outbreak

As bird flu continues to spread, the largest cull ever at a Czech poultry farm, affecting 750,000 laying hens, is currently underway.

Expats.cz Staff

Written by Expats.cz Staff Published on 05.01.2023 11:22:00 (updated on 05.01.2023) Reading time: 3 minutes

The price of eggs in Czech stores is likely to rise again due to bird flu. Some 750,000 laying hens are being culled this week in West Bohemia due to bird flu, amounting to roughly 15 percent of the approximately 5 million hens in the Czech Republic. It is the largest cull ever at a single Czech poultry farm.

The culled hens would have laid over 600,000 eggs daily, according to the Czech-Moravian Poultry Union.

Czechia is very self-reliant on its own egg production. Farms in the Czech Republic supply approximately 85 percent of the eggs sold in the country. Imports from neighboring countries could potentially help to make up the shortfall in eggs, but prices in other countries are also high due to bird flu.

Egg prices already high due to inflation

Egg prices have already increased substantially last year due to inflation. Figures from the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ) show that eggs in November 2022 eggs were 71.9 percent more expensive than they were a year earlier, while food prices overall had risen by 27.1 percent year on year. Only sugar, which rose by 109 percent year on year, had a higher inflation rate among the food categories tracked by the ČSÚ.

Bird flu was confirmed in the village of Brod nad Tichou in the Plzeň region at the end of last year. Originally, some 120,000 hens were scheduled to be culled in the farm in part of one of the three large halls operated by agricultural firm Česká drůbež.

EGGS-ORBIANT PRICE HIKE|Ten eggs at the beginning of 2022 cost an average of CZK 29.37 in stores. In November, the price rose to CZK 48.92, which is an increase of almost 67 percent.

On Monday, however, tests confirmed the infection had spread to a second part of the hall. Veterinarians decided to cull all 220,000 hens from the entire hall, and on Wednesday the State Veterinary Administration (SVS) said that the entire flock of 750,000 hens in three halls will be culled as the spread of the disease could not be prevented.

Czech-Moravian Poultry Union chairwoman Gabriela Dlouhá told ČTK that a large-scale farm like the one operated by Česká drůbež is not typical by Czech standards and is the largest in terms of capacity. Other companies in Czechia have 70,000 hens in their largest halls.

Imports could cover shortfall

It is not clear how long it will take for Česká drůbež to restore its flock so it can restart egg production. If the company can obtain mature hens chickens, production could be restarted relatively fast, Dlouhá said. Currently, though, there is a shortage of mature hens in Europe due to bird flu. If Česká drůbež buys new-born chicks, it will take about 20 weeks before they start laying, according to Dlouhá.

According to Dlouhá, the egg shortage on the Czech market can partly be covered by imports, given that some foreign farms that were culled in November are starting to recover.

Roughly 35 million eggs were imported into the Czech Republic in November, which is higher than average. Dlouhá added that imports will depend on how much Czech entrepreneurs are willing to pay for imported eggs.

Bird flu cases continue to increase

In December alone, 10 new outbreaks of bird flu were announced in the Czech Republic. The rate of new bird flu outbreaks is continuing to accelerate, the SVS said in a press release. A fourth outbreak of bird flu has already occurred this month in a small poultry farm in Zlín region, the SVS added.

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“We appeal to all poultry and bird breeders to observe the principles of biosecurity in farms and the ordered emergency veterinary measures. Changes in health status or increased deaths in farms must be reported immediately to the regional veterinary administration,” SVS central director Zbyněk Semerád said.

The SVS published a set of guidelines in December. Measures include keeping birds indoors when possible and restricting the movement of people in poultry farms only to essential personnel.

According to a December report by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, between October 2021 and September 2022, Europe had 2,520 outbreaks of bird flu in poultry, 227 outbreaks in captive birds, and 3,867 detections of the virus in wild birds. This affected some 37 European countries and 50 million birds were culled.

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