Baker's association seeks action to boost egg supplies

by Ron Sterk
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Bakers group calls on government to boost egg imports amid avian influenza crisis.

WASHINGTON — The American Bakers Association has activated its Rise to Action Grassroots Action Center to encourage food manufacturers and bakers to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Congress to allow for increased imports of eggs and egg products to help offset rapidly decreasing supplies caused by the worst outbreak of avian influenza in U.S. history.

“Due to avian influenza, egg supplies are decreasing at an alarming rate,” said Robb MacKie, president and chief executive officer of the A.B.A. “The U.S.D.A. must act now to ensure that bakers can access necessary supplies to maintain current production.”

The U.S.D.A. indicated that more than 39 million chickens, turkeys and other birds have died or been euthanized since highly pathogenic avian influenza was detected in the Pacific Northwest Dec. 19, 2014, with most of those deaths occurring since March when the virus was confirmed in the key Upper Midwest processing egg and turkey production region. Iowa, the nation’s top producer of processing eggs, has lost nearly 45% of its laying flock, with more than 10% of the total U.S. flock lost.

“This is an urgent supply concern, one where many bakers have been told that they will receive less egg product supplies than they need, if any at all,” said Cory Martin, director of government relations at the A.B.A. “Recent data shows that approximately 25% of industrial egg product production, including liquid, frozen and powdered eggs, is now offline due to the avian influenza. This represents a major blow to egg product ingredients bakers rely upon, and without quickly accessing additional supplies, bakers will face a dire situation.”

Prices of processing eggs (breaking stock) have more than tripled to record highs since early May. Some egg product prices have more than doubled and all have increased sharply during the same time, although the major concern is supply, egg processors and users said.

“Government has the ability to bring in additional egg product imports to address supply concerns,” Mr. MacKie said. “We strongly urge the U.S.D.A. and other responsible agencies to act quickly to allow temporary imports from countries that can help fill urgent demand needs while maintaining adequate food safety standards.”
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