SEOUL, Jan. 3 (Korea Bizwire) – According to recent data from the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, the average egg price in Korea is up to 2.8 times higher than in overseas markets, posing a threat to bakeries and confectioneries.
The ministry compared the wholesale prices of eggs in the United States, Spain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, which stood between 89 and 172 won ($0.07 – $0.14) per egg on December 19, 2016. The government has been engaged in talks with the five countries to discuss the import of eggs to ease the impact of Korea’s record bird flu outbreak.
The highest price among the five countries was in Australia (172 won), followed by New Zealand (161 won), the U.S. (153 won), Canada (146 won), and Spain (89 won).
The average wholesale price of an egg in Korea was 250 won on December 26.
The data was revealed during an information session for local businesses hosted by the ministry on December 28, introducing government plans to overcome the short supply of eggs through imports. Over 30.3 million poultry had been culled as of Tuesday morning.
Although businesses seem to agree that importing eggs could be one of the measures used to ease the crisis spreading across industries, there are those that remain skeptical of the effectiveness and validity of the policy, especially if the produce needs to be imported as air cargo.
“We mainly use fresh, refrigerated eggs in our products,” said an official from a major bakery franchise. “But if we import them by ship, which takes a longer time, and have them delivered frozen, our products would have an entirely different taste.”
The official also added that it’s difficult to calculate the profits and losses even if the company does decide to pay the expensive cost of shipping by air, as there are no precedents from the past to compare to.
“We’ll only consider egg imports through air delivery if the supply conditions further deteriorate, and the choice is inevitable.”
Another official from a local discount store also questioned the possibility of egg imports actually taking place in the near future.
“According to our merchandisers, our local office in the U.S. is currently investigating the possibility of egg imports,” the official said. “But the investigation still in its evaluation stages, with none of the specific guidelines yet devised, including quarantines or tariff quotas. There’s a low possibility of initiating imports at this time.”
Early on Tuesday, the government passed a motion that temporarily removed import tariffs on egg products, allowing local companies to import 98,000 tons of shell eggs, powdered eggs and six other types of egg products without tariffs starting Wednesday, until June 30.
Nonetheless, it is still unclear as to how many firms will actually consider the import option.
“Major companies importing eggs could be subject to criticism, and it could lead to damages at local farms even after the crisis is contained and recovered from,” said an industry official. “Both the government and business sector need to approach the matter with much consideration.”
By Kevin Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)