|A customer shops for eggs at a discount store in Seoul, Tuesday. The Korea Consumer Agency said the average price of eggs in March rose 31 percent year-on-year. / Yonhap|
By Park Jae-hyuk
The custom of giving decorated eggs as gifts for neighbors will likely not be as popular this weekend on Easter Sunday at most Catholic and Protestant churches in Korea due to economic reasons.
Due to a price hike led by an avian influenza outbreak over the past few months, Myeongdong Cathedral in downtown Seoul and most other churches said they have decided to give flowers and rice cakes to their neighbors, instead of giving thousands of eggs as they usually do.
The churches have been concerned that their bulk purchases of eggs might end up causing a further rise in egg prices, thus troubling consumers who are already suffering from rocketing egg prices.
Following the moves, large discount chains and online marketplaces in Korea, which in previous years offered discounts to boost sales of eggs ahead of Easter, also remain reluctant to hold promotional events for eggs this time.
Given the shortage of eggs after decreases in the number of chickens, retailers expected egg prices will not fall by the end of this year.
According to Korea Agro-Fisheries & Food Trade Corporation (aT), the average price of 30 eggs on Monday was 7,509 won ($6.5), up 46 percent year-on-year and 34 percent higher than usual. Many people buy trays of 30 eggs at a time at discount chains here.
The Korea Consumer Agency also said the average price of eggs last month jumped 31 percent from a year earlier, and has continued to rise over the past three months.
Industry officials attributed the latest price hike to the government’s decision to halt egg imports from the U.S. following a bird flu outbreak in Tennessee last month.
Although the government announced last month it would import eggs from Australia, New Zealand and Canada, their quantities don’t seem large enough to stabilize egg prices here, according to industry officials.
They said the increased demand at schools during the semester will also keep the prices high.
Still, the government bans most farmers from raising chicks again within a 10-kilometer radius of the farms that suffered bird flu outbreaks.