Sri Lanka to import eggs to address local shortage

COLOMBO, 3 Jan 2023:

The Sri Lankan government today gave the green light to import eggs amid a local shortage as poultry farmers have abandoned farms after a price control regime.

Official spokesperson Bandula Gunawardena said the government discussed the shortage and soaring prices with stakeholders before allowing the egg import.

The government in August capped the maximum price of a white egg at 43 Sri Lankan rupees (12 US cents) and 45 rupees for a brown egg. The government removed the cap last month.

The price control regime forced several poultry farmers to give up the trade, causing a dire shortage that experts say would take at least two years to normalise.

The domestic market is facing an estimated 40% shortage of eggs.

The price of an egg in December 2022 was around 60 rupees, which is more than double the price in the same month in 2021 – when it then cost 25 rupees.

Sri Lanka has been reeling under a deep economic crisis for more than a year.

The government is eyeing a US$2.9 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund.

However, multiple reports indicate that Sri Lanka is entering a new food shortage crisis.

A UNICEF report has found that an estimated 6.2 million people, or 28% of the total population on the island, are moderately acute food insecure.

Some 66,000 people are severely acute food insecure.

“Two in five households (41.8%) spend more than 75% of their expenditures on purchasing food, leaving little to spend on health and education,” the report noted.

However, poultry traders say allowing egg imports will have ripple effects on the island’s economy.

“Sri Lanka’s poultry industry creates an income of 15 billion rupees,” says All Island Poultry Farmers Association head Ajith Gunasekara.

Gunasekara said importing eggs would have a series of repercussions. He said it would cause losses to local farmers, who kept the industry afloat even during Covid19 restrictions and a fuel shortage last year.

The trade leader said it was impossible to expect poultry production “when the government simply resorts to imports.”

“This situation will seriously affect the next season.”