Australians are being hit with a national egg shortage, as consumers move towards free-range eggs amid rising production costs, extreme weather events and worker shortages.
Supermarkets across the country are back to implementing purchase limits, with farmers grappling to keep up with demand after they decreased their chicken numbers during lockdown.
Owner of Chooks at the Rooke, a free-range egg farm southwest of Melbourne, Xavier Prime told 3AW Radio that part of the problem was the cold weather that affected how often the birds laid eggs.
“Part of it is the time of the year as well.” he said.
“Free-range eggs, in that sort of space the birds are open to the elements, and with the daylight hours being shorter, that has a lot to do with how many eggs the chickens lay.”
Mr. Prime said “to lay the optimum”, he needs 15-16 hours of daylight every day, but at the moment they are experiencing just 10-11 hours.
A Woolworths spokesman said the scarcity of eggs was due to a production shortage on farms, with the cost of young hens laying eggs increasing by 20 per cent.
“The market-wide supply of locally produced eggs in some regions has recently been impacted by reduced production on a number of farms,” they said.
“While we continue to deliver eggs to our stores regularly, customers may notice reduced availability at the moment and we thank them for their patience and understanding.
“We’re in close contact with our suppliers and are working to increase the availability of eggs in stores as soon as possible.”
The supermarket giant has installed a two-carton limit in some stores.
Mr Prime said he hoped the supply shortages did not push consumers back to caged eggs.
But free-range eggs aren’t the only product Australian shoppers are being stripped of, with supermarkets reporting bare shelves for other household items such as chickpeas, lentils, lettuce, tissues and cold and flu tablets.
“We’re experiencing reduced availability across some of our lentil and chickpea products due to supply chain delays,” a Woolworths spokesperson said.
The supply chain issues are a combination of the war in Ukraine, flooding and other extreme weather events on Australian shores.