Cross-border shopping: Egg sales lost

The sale of as many as four million dozen eggs are lost to B.C. farmers due to people shopping across the line.

It is estimated that B.C. farmers are losing sales of between two million and four million dozen eggs annually due to cross-border shopping.

That equates to $6 million to $12 million worth of farm gate sales.

In order to combat that loss, the BC Egg Marketing Board (BCEMB) has embarked on a province-wide awareness initiative to put the economic impact of cross-border shopping into perspective for consumers.

Executive director Al Sakalauskas said that 1.9 million households in B.C. are located within 75 kilometres of the border. No other province in the country has that kind of population density relative to the border.

The group’s study found that 76 per cent of those households have shopped in the U.S. in the past 12 months. Of those that did shop across the line, 26 per cent purchased eggs.

Price is a factor. The average cost for a dozen Grade A white eggs in Canada is about $2.79, compared to about $1.75 in the United States.

However, Sakalauskas noted the price becomes higher the further south one travels.

“They are catering to Canadians down there and  the American food industry has always used staple items as a draw.”

About 80 per cent of B.C.’s registered egg producers are located in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, and collectively produce close to 52 million dozen eggs per year, which are then sent to three separate grading stations, Frontier Farms Ltd, Golden Valley Foods Ltd and Pinegrove Farms Ltd.

The largest of the three, Golden Valley Foods, grades more than 44 million dozen eggs per year. The facility then sells those eggs to major retailers and wholesale restaurant suppliers within the province, a variety including free-range, free-run, omega-enhanced, organic and regular.

Golden Valley Foods estimates that between 60 to 70 per cent of those eggs stay within the Fraser Valley.

Those who purchase eggs in the U.S. are getting a similar product to those in Canada. Sakalauskas said the quality of the egg itself is “pretty equal,” as they all come from the same type of hen.

However, B.C. has different farm protocols in terms of “biosecurity” (measures reducing the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, invasive species or unwanted organisms.)

He called it a higher standard, noting that B.C. has 132 egg farmers as compared to the U.S. which has a smaller number of large producers.

“One egg farm in the U.S. can have as many eggs as the entire province of B.C.,” he said, noting that 56 companies in the U.S. produce 89 per cent of the eggs in America.

The BCEMB study is focused on the average, lowest cost egg. Sakalauskas said the same degree of lost sales due to cross-border shopping is not seen in the specialty egg market like organic eggs, free range or Omega 3 products.

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