COST OF LIVING/Taiwan egg wholesalers decry price freeze, threaten to 'close market'
Taipei, March 19 (CNA) A group of wholesale egg suppliers in Taipei is threatening to stop sales "indefinitely" if Taiwan's Poultry Association (TPA) extends the current price freeze next week, amid a domestic shortage.
A decision made Saturday by a TPA production and marketing supervision committee to freeze the wholesale price of domestically produced chicken eggs this week is not sustainable and will hurt egg farmers and suppliers, the group said without elaborating.
Currently, the wholesale price of eggs in Taiwan is NT$55 (US$1.79) per catty (600 grams), while the farm gate price is NT$45.5 per catty, the highest in many years, amid an egg shortage in the country that has been caused by avian flu epidemics, increased feed costs, and a high number of molting hens, according to government officials.
Following Saturday's meeting held by the committee to review egg prices, one of the members said the decision to freeze wholesale prices was based on the fact that Taiwan is importing eggs to alleviate the shortage.
Taiwan has already taken delivery of part of a total shipment of 5 million eggs from Australia and has ordered another 2 million from Turkey, which will start arriving in April, said Wu Tien-fu (吳天福), head of the Taiwan Egg Marketing Cooperative.
When the committee meets again next week, however, it will consider wholesale price adjustments, depending on whether the imported supplies are sufficient to meet market demand, he said.
Lin Tien-lai (林天來), who heads the Taipei commercial egg association, said however that he will seek a meeting with officials at the Council of Agriculture (COA) soon, and if wholesale prices remain frozen next week, the egg market may be "closed indefinitely."
In response, Chiang Wen-chuan (江文全), deputy head of the COA's Department of Animal Industry, said Sunday that the government agency has not been involved in the pricing decisions and negotiations between producers and sellers and was not part of the TPA committee meeting the previous day.
The COA fully respects the market mechanism, Chiang said, adding that if the egg price review committee does not set a price, it will be left up to the buyers and sellers negotiate their own prices.
However, if businesses violate the market mechanism, the relevant government agencies will investigate and deal with the problems, he added.
Regarding the threat to close the egg market indefinitely, Chiang said there is no unified wholesale market for eggs, so there is no "market closure" mechanism.
According to Wu, some wholesalers have been offering farmers a price increase of NT$3 per catty, in a bid to secure supplies. This has been an independent decision by the wholesale buyers, he said, adding that the COA was not involved.
According to COA data, the current daily domestic output of chicken eggs is 22.2 million (111,000 boxes), 200,000 less than the daily number of 22.4 million over the past few weeks when output was already 500,000 to 800,000 lower than usual.
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