– As local poultry producers call for improved facilities and efforts to ensure good markets for their goods
By David A. Yates & George Harris
The local market recently experienced a massive shortage of chicken eggs, which caused problems for importers and consumers in the country. In Liberia, eggs are mostly used in restaurants, bakeries, and households to produce a variety of foods.
Eggs produce protein for the body, and the commodity is widely sold in supermarkets, retail stores and shops.
According to information gathered by the Daily Observer, high tariff on shipment, limited availability of chicken feed and the high mortality rate of egg layers are visible factors resulting to the egg shortage on the Liberian market.
A source from Fouani Group, an importer and wholesale distributor of a variety of foodstuffs, attributed the shortage to the Commerce Ministry, which he alleged has placed restrictions on importing the commodity.
He said the situation is the result of the fluctuating price of egg on the world market, adding that the Commerce Ministry’s attempt to restrict importing eggs could be another cause, “because not many businesses are importing eggs right now.”
During the first meeting that followed the acquaintance meeting with Commerce Minister, a handful of poultry farmers expressed optimism about the sector’s future, although they stated that preference given to egg importers have discouraged local poultry production over the years.
“They [importers] bring in containers and containers of imported things and flood the market. For that reason, they won’t take from the local producers; so everybody closes down. We are here to make profit and this has collapsed the poultry sector of Liberia. We are not producing anymore because we [local poultry farmers] cannot sell,” said Mai Urey of Wulki Farms, one of Liberia’s leading egg producers.
Mrs. Urey, who spoke on behalf of the group, said local poultry producers’ willingness to collaborate with the Liberian government has given hopeful signs about Liberia’s business sector. She highlighted privileges like subsidies, improved facilities and efforts to ensure good markets for local producers can provide favorable conditions that will encourage local egg production again.
“I don’t want to say assurance, but utterances from the Commerce Minister and Justice Minister mean a lot. We have not seen this for a Minister to have had a meeting with local producers, but I am sure these things are not coming from them as individuals; it seems like a collective effort from the government,” said Urey.
Meanwhile snap survey by the Daily Observer revealed that eggs were absent at most supermarkets while vendors were selling a cart of eggs at L$800 instead of $400, a pricing many consumers termed ‘frustrating.’ Currently the price for a single egg on the market is sold at L$40, which tends to be higher based on location.
Despite the impact on consumers, retailers also disclosed that they currently make profit by selling the empty egg carts and cartons, apart from generating profit from the eggs alone. Retailers also disclosed that they are compelled to purchase eggs in US dollars, or do so at a higher exchange rate when paying in local currency.
“We used to buy the eggs at a very reasonable price before, but for two weeks now these companies are now selling the eggs to us in foreign currency; and you and myself know the rate in our country is high,” Ma-Konah said.
However, according to a local businessman (name withheld), Lebanese businessmen are the biggest beneficiaries of all profits, because they enjoy monopoly privileges that afford them the opportunity to dump cheap eggs on the local market. He alleged that the shortage was caused mainly by Lebanese businessmen so as to drive up the price of eggs on the market.
Commenting on the cheaper price of imported eggs, he noted that egg producers in exporting countries are supported by subsidies from their respective governments, which makes it difficult for local producers to compete with importers.
The meeting held with Commerce Minister Wilson Tarpeh, he said, was useful, but he will remain a “doubting Thomas” until concrete actions are taken to protect Liberian businesses.