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Not un œuf! Why there might be an egg shortage in France

The Local France
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Not un œuf! Why there might be an egg shortage in France
A picture taken in 2016 shows chickens at a henhouse near Loon-Plage. (Photo by PHILIPPE HUGUEN / AFP)

Fans of eggs and foods that require egg products might see their grocery bills rise this winter, as bird flu and the cost of living crisis hammer poultry farmers across France. There may even be not un œuf eggs to go round.

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Mayonnaise, quiche, omelettes - they all have one foundational ingredient in common, and soon it might become more scarce and more expensive in France.

The production of eggs - a food that 99 percent of French people consume - could drop by as much as 10 percent this year, according to reporting by Franceinfo.

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Amid rising inflation, the price of eggs has already been increasing this year. Franceinfo estimated that the price of a box of six eggs has increased by 13 percent since September 2021. The head of the French supermarket giant, Système U, told the French news outlet that eggs have been one of their products whose price has increased the most in 2022.

Egg prices are rising for several reasons, namely the fact that the product may be facing a shortage in coming months.

The primary reason is that bird flu - an epidemic impacting poultry across France. While the disease typically does not spread to humans, it is lethal and highly contagious for poultry.

In France, the spread of bird flu forced farmers to have to slaughter approximately 770,000 animals since the beginning of the summer. This has led to a decrease in the number of hens available to produce eggs - and thus, fewer eggs.

As of November 10th, agriculture authorities announced that the risk of spread had increased from "moderate" to "high" in the country. This meant that further prevention measures needed to be put in place, specifically the confining of all outdoor poultry. 

France's ministry of agriculture called the situation "exceptional" and "never before encountered in France due to its magnitude" on their website

In addition to the ongoing bird flu crisis, farmers are also faced with higher electricity bills and an increased cost of grain (used to feed poultry) as a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine, forcing many to increase prices in order to meet costs.

On the other side - the cost of living crisis has impacted consumer habits, as well, with many more people opting for eggs as a more affordable source of protein, rather than meat, which has also become more expensive in recent months. 

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Are there any possible solutions?

While some farmers have contested the government's decision to require that chickens be confined indoors, arguing that it will not help stop the spread of the disease, the government sees the measure as transitional.

A vaccine will potentially be available in 2023, and it has been undergoing testing since June, with "tangible results expected in December or January," according to the Minister of Agriculture, Marc Fesneau.

Fesneau told France Bleu that "the objective for us is to help farmers get through this period and to ensure that next year, with the vaccine, we have something that will allow us to approach the period more confidently."

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