Although the 2017 avian influenza outbreak largely affected egg layers, for some reason, I did not really pay close attention to the South African eggs supplies. I only started thinking about this matter on Friday, when I noticed a report from the United States Department of Agriculture, indicating that South Africa has officially opened its market to imports of American shell eggs (HS code 040721).

This is an interesting development considering that South Africa is usually self-sufficient in eggs. Looking at the data covering the past 17-years, the largest eggs imports were in 2013, amounting to 66 tonnes. About 98 percent of this originated from Lesotho, according to data from Trade Map. In fact, Lesotho has consistently been the key supplier of eggs to South Africa in the years that the country has imported (which is 4-years in a 17-year data series).

This year, however, started on a bad footing due to reduced domestic eggs supplies on the back of 2017 avian influenza, which negatively affected the domestic layer flock. The country had to import in order to supplement domestic supplies. Data from the United States Department of Agriculture shows that between January and May 2018, South Africa imported 50 tonnes of eggs. About 99 percent of this came from Brazil.

The total eggs imports for 2018 are estimated at 75 tonnes. With the US having recently been granted access to the South Africa eggs market, the country will potentially benefit from the 25 tonnes that are yet to be imported. There will, of course, be tough competition from Brazil and Lesotho.

@WandileSihlobo). E-mail:

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