Egg production in Poland
‘This is a global scale crisis,’ admits Barbara Wozniak, board representative of Wozniak Poultry Farms, a company that is Poland's largest and Europe's second largest supplier of eggs. ‘Being one of the major producers of eggs in the EU, there should be no shortage of eggs in Poland. Prices, however, are rising unprecedentedly fast, with wholesale eggs already costing up to twice as much as a year earlier.’
Global problem. Where are those eggs?
The European Union is the fourth (6% share of the global market) producer of eggs in the World. First place belongs to China with 35% of the market share, followed by the USA (8%) and India (7%).
Egg shortages are now being faced by Japan, USA and New Zealand. In Japan, more than 11 million laying hens have already been slaughtered due to Avian Influenze and in the United States this number has reached 44 million. The situation is no better now in the EU, where the avian influenza is the highest on record, with demand beginning to far outstrip supply. The list of countries is steadily expanding and does not bypass Poland.
The British National Farmers Union has called on the government to urgently intervene and support domestic food production. In turn, Grocer Magazine reports that in the Great Britain, prices for some eggs have skyrocketed by up to 85% in a year. British Lidl and the ASDA chain have even decided to impose purchasing limits. Eyes are also on the situation in Brazil, where the arrival of avian influenza in the country would have implications in all countries around the world - given the scale of importance of poultry farming there.
Polish producers have no doubt that even if there is no shortage of eggs in Poland, the consumer will certainly pay much more. Buying prices are already breaking records, and soon not only eggs, but also pasta, mayonnaise and pastries will be noticeably more expensive.
Egg production in Poland
According to Eurostat, Poland is the 3rd largest producer of eggs in the EU with a 17% share of EU production, after Spain and Germany.
Egg production in Poland completely meets domestic needs, which is why Poland is one of the largest exporters of eggs in the EU. In 2020, Poland's production of consumer eggs reached about 10 billion pieces, and in 2021 - 10.3 billion pieces. In Poland, 85% of all eggs produced are consumer eggs, and 15% are hatching eggs. Egg production is regionally concentrated in Poland. The largest number of farms is located in the Wielkopolskie (Greater Poland) and Mazowieckie (Mazovia) Voivodeships. As much as 56% of all domestic production comes from these two regions.
According to preliminary data from the Polish Ministry of Finance, 141.000 tons of eggs worth 160 million EUR were sold abroad in 2021. This is a lower result than in 2020, as it was 192.000 tons of eggs for 204 million EUR. Several factors contributed to this decline, including restrictions on international trade due to the pandemic, especially the restrictions on the operation of the HoReCa sector. Another reason for the decline in exports were restrictions imposed by third countries due to the outbreak of avian influenza in Poland.
Egg consumption per person is lower in Poland than it was a decade ago. According to the GUS (Central Statistical Office in Poland), in 2019-2020 a statistical Pole ate 156 eggs per year, while even before 2011 their consumption exceeded 200 eggs per year. This is one of the lowest rates in the world, especially in the context of the volume of domestic production.
According to the National Chamber of Poultry and Feed Manufacturers, there is a shortage of laying hens in Poland, and the domestic production base has shrunk by 20.5% mostly due to Avian Influenza (the decline from January to November last year was 11.5%). In addition, as the Polish Poultry Breeders Association predicts, later this year there may be some manufacturers who decide to halt production during the winter due to the high energy prices. For example, gas costs for Wozniak Poultry Farms have risen by 700%. This will again affect the price of eggs for consumers.
Egg price prognosis
Poland is ranked 40th in egg prices (source: GlobalProductPrices.com). The first corresponding places are occupied by Switzerland, Puerto Rico and Slovakia. The Netherlands is in 32nd place, with Bangladesh and Indonesia having the cheapest eggs.
Due to Poland being a large producer of eggs, there should be no shortage of eggs in Poland. Prices, however, are rising fast, with wholesale eggs already costing up to twice as much as a year earlier. Customers will also feel the price increase when buying other products, such as for example pasta, mayonnaise and pastries.
According to data from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the average price of Cat M (cage-reared) eggs in December 2022 reached a record high of 71.80 PLN (15.28 EUR)/100 eggs, an increase of 86% year-on-year. At the same time, the price of eggs for processing increased 2.2 times.
And there are many indications that it will be even more expensive, looking at Eurostat data hatchlings of laying hens in Q3 2022 in Poland decreased by 35%. Attention is also drawn to the significant - more than 50% - decline in hatchlings in Germany. Given the still negative hatching dynamics recorded by Eurostat, we can expect egg prices to continue to rise. The process of rebuilding production will not happen quickly. Producers also see trouble, in their view, in unfavorable changes in the market for them, namely the abandonment of cage farming.
- For several years, chains have been announcing that they will not distribute so-called eggs with no. 3 (cage farming). Netto, Lidl or Biedronka even boast that they will not trade them. This makes it so that when a producer renews production, they already do it in a barn system (eggs with no. 2), which means up to four times less manning on the same facility. The result is fewer eggs to sell. What the average consumer doesn't realize is that the implementation of the demands to ban this rearing means an increase of min. 30-40% of production costs alone - explains Piotr Lisiecki, president of the National Chamber of Poultry and Feed Producers.
Opportunity for Polish producers?
The domestic market with 38 million consumers is crucial for Polish producers and their first priority. In case of for example Wozniak Poultry Farms, approximately 70% of production is intended for the Polish market. However with a declining domestic demand, export of the production will be become more important. And egg shortages in other countries is increasing the demand. Potentially, this could provide an opportunity for highly profitable exports of Polish eggs.
According to experts, Poland is a strong producer, and importers appreciate the quality of Polish eggs and their semi-finished products. What is important is how Polish producers will open new supply chains, which potential markets they will choose first and whether they will have the support of the Polish administration, including, above all, in promotion.
- Polish eggs are already in Singapore, and earlier Israel replaced uncertain Ukrainian suppliers with Polish ones after a thorough audit on Polish farms - says Piotr Lisiecki.
- According to the Central Statistical Office (GUS), exports of shell eggs in January-November 2022 increased by 56% over the low 2021 and by 14% over the same period in 2020. More than fivefold growth was recorded in exports to France, which had the highest number of AI outbreaks among EU countries in 2022 - recalls Mariusz Dziwulski, PKO Bank Analytics.
Moreover, as an example, many Hungarian companies are abandoning domestic eggs in favor of imported ones. With rising inflation and energy increases, the price cap imposed on them is making egg production increasingly expensive and no longer profitable. Instead of producing, Hungarian companies are looking to import eggs more cheaply, including from Poland.
Polish agrifood companies are also looking for suitable egg substitutes. Not only because of the current crisis, but also because of changing consumer preferences who are looking for plant-based alternatives, or for consumers with food intolerances or allergies.
- Looking for a substitute for the egg, which in many respects is a total product, as it has many technological properties that are difficult to reproduce with another product, is a bomb of vitamins, amino acids, a very digestible and highly nutritious product, which on a small scale is still affordable and widely acceptable. But we have to move with the times, with development, and that is why we are taking on this challenge. – representative of a major Polish food company.
Every now and then companies appear on the market that offer such solutions. It is still difficult to find a good egg substitute, work in this area is ongoing, but there is still a long way to go to the desired effect. On the home scale, you can use simple solutions like mashed ripe banana or plantain (texture, bonding agent), aquafaba (whipped egg white), flaxseed or pumpkin puree (in baked goods), tapioca flour but on the industrial scale the real challenge begins. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that plant-based substitutes are still highly processed products that are ransomed by the manufacturing process, which involves a high cost scale. Finding such alternatives will allow us to respond to demand, but will not be associated with a lower product price.
In spite of this, there are start-ups in Poland that are developing the production of a plant-based egg, such as myEgg. Their "egg" is supposed to be both rich in protein, contain all the amino acids that chicken eggs provide, and at the same time have as simple a composition as possible, as well as being easy to use and multifunctional, suitable both for preparing morning scrambled eggs and for use in baked goods and other dishes. The result was liquid eggs based on hemp seeds and pea protein. The final product is ready and will enter the Polish market in the coming weeks. In terms of conversion, the price for the equivalent of one egg will be 2.80-3.00 PLN (0.60-0.63 EUR). This is more than you need to pay in the store for a hen's egg, even one from free range. The main barrier for now remains the scale of production.