Bird Flu Outbreak Forces Woolworths and Pick n Pay to Ration Eggs

six brown eggs with tray

In the face of South Africa’s most severe avian influenza outbreak to date, leading retailers Woolworths and Pick n Pay have taken measures to ration egg supplies to customers. This decision aims to ensure a steady flow of eggs amidst the ongoing bird flu crisis.

Woolworths revealed this week that they have introduced a purchasing limit for whole eggs in their stores, allowing each customer to buy a maximum of six eggs. This move is part of their collaborative effort with farmers to restore consistent egg supply as swiftly as possible. The action follows a recent News24 report that shed light on retailers’ frantic attempts to secure egg stocks, as the H5 and H7 strains of bird flu continue to wreak havoc in the poultry sector. Customers in Cape Town and Johannesburg, regions severely impacted by the outbreak, have noticed increasingly bare egg shelves in local supermarkets.

Woolworths acknowledges that they are facing significant supply challenges, a situation that is prevalent across the market. They emphasized that this egg purchase limitation is a temporary measure and expressed gratitude for their customers’ patience and understanding during these trying times. The retailer has been diligently implementing signage throughout all their stores, including their online and Dash services. Woolworths remains vigilant in monitoring the bird flu situation, both locally and internationally, and assures the public that stringent biosecurity protocols are in place to protect their hens.

Meanwhile, Pick n Pay is also urging customers to “shop responsibly” and has imposed limits on egg purchases. Depending on the region, customers will be restricted to buying one or two egg packs. They have committed to working closely with suppliers to manage their stock and support stores in areas where suppliers have been affected by the crisis.

However, South Africa’s largest retailer, Shoprite, has declared that it is not currently rationing eggs and has no immediate plans to do so.

The avian influenza crisis has prompted Thoko Didiza, Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development, to engage with retailers to discuss its repercussions on South Africa’s food supply chain. Following a meeting with the South African Poultry Association, the minister identified production challenges and supply constraints in specific regions as the main issues.

In response, Minister Didiza is focused on implementing measures to enhance the availability of egg supplies while simultaneously containing the spread of the disease. She is also considering the possibility of vaccination and reviewing applications from various suppliers. During the meeting with retailers, she briefed them on containment measures and potential short- and long-term solutions, including vaccination, to manage outbreaks.

Furthermore, in the poultry sector’s broiler segment, Minister Didiza, in collaboration with Trade, Industry, and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, is evaluating trade instruments to facilitate the supply of chicken meat to the market. These efforts aim to mitigate the effects of the avian influenza outbreak on the food industry.

As the bird flu crisis continues to unfold, the government and retailers are working together to ensure both the availability of essential food items like eggs and the protection of public health.

Fordsburg Independent Online, October 4, 2023