French egg producers seek to export to ease price crisis

French egg producers, faced with a slump in prices linked to overproduction, said Monday they would remove 15 million eggs from the domestic market and seek to benefit from low prices to conquer new export markets.

Egg prices soared in 2011 and early 2012 due to a lack of supplies as farmers adapted to a European welfare regulation that requested larger cages for laying hens.

However, prices have fallen nearly 40 per cent since producers met the new requirements and returned to the market over the last year, French egg promotion committee CNPO said.

The crisis has led to a wave of protests that led producers to smash thousands of eggs in northwest France in recent weeks.

To adjust supply and demand, the CNPO which estimates overproduction of eggs at between five and six per cent over the 10 first months of 2013, says 15 million eggs need to be removed from the market and exported by early September.

“Operators will try to take advantage of the internal situation to gain market share and conquer new markets,” Christian Marinov, CNPO’s director, told Reuters.

He said the Middle East and Southeast Asia were possible destinations.

“Since prices are low, they can make it easier, especially if administrative procedures are facilitated,” Marinov said.

France’s farm minister has pledged to ease red tape and help producers find new outlets, he said.

To reduce stocks, Marinov said producers were also ready to give several hundred thousand eggs to charities, but he urged them to find alternative ways to control production, including by culling laying hens earlier.

— Reporting for Reuters by Sybille de La Hamaide in Paris.

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