Some local farmers running short of eggs

Some local farmers running short of eggs
Published: Mar. 8, 2013 at 2:01 AM HST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2013 at 3:31 PM HST
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Casey Courter
Casey Courter

WAHIAWA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A lot of people like to start their morning with a fresh egg or two. But recently it's become a littler harder to find locally grown eggs because of a shortage.

A shopper at Don Quijote's Kaheka store sent in a photo when he was confronted with a sign, announcing an island-wide shortage of locally-grown Ka Lei Eggs. Ka Lei's Web site also announced a shortage of inventory.

Ka Lei owner Lois Shimabukuro said there were many factors for the shortage. "There was a rise in mainland egg prices in January that we did not expect, and that brought a surge in sales," she said. At the same time, the company was in the process of bringing in a new flock of hens, which it usually does each February.

Ka Lei is not alone. In Wahiawa, Peterson's Upland Farm usually sells eggs on weekdays between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. On Thursday, a sign was posted on the farm's fence, announcing that it was sold out.

"Monday through Friday we sell out about noon," said Sharon Peterson Cheape, who runs the farm with her father and uncle. "Saturday we were selling out about eleven, but we've been going ahead and selling our mediums and smalls and pee-wees."

Some blame the recent cold, windy and damp weather for making the hens less likely to lay eggs. But at Peterson's, it's because the farm is in the process of retiring an old flock of hens. "We bring in a new flock, we clean and disinfect, and this new flock is just not laying quite as many right now, and what they're laying, they're really small," said Cheape.

There are now just four egg farms in the islands now, down from 21 farms in the late 1980s. According to the Hawaii Egg Producers Association, local eggs are free of antibiotics and hormones, and are ten to 15 days fresher than eggs from the mainland. That's a draw for a lot of consumers.

"When there's a farmer's market like this, I always want to come and grab some bananas and grab some fresh eggs and know I'm eating healthy," said Casey Courter, who bought some Peterson's eggs at the Wahiawa Farmer's Market.

Even though they are grown locally, the eggs still cost more. Local farmers still have to ship feed and other supplies to Hawaii, and the cost of the feed itself has skyrocketed. "The cost of the feed has almost doubled because of using corn for ethanol. We've got the higher feed costs, and the fuel and surcharge just keeps going up," said Cheape.

"It's costing a whole lot more. We just had to raise our prices, and it kills us because we don't want to pass it on, but we came to the realization that if we don't raise them, then we won't even be here," Cheape added.

It's been the same at Ka Lei, but Shimabukuro is thankful that customers have been sticking with them, despite the shortage and the higher prices. "They've continued to support us, and we're filled with gratitude that they do."

Despite the shortage, growers are hoping to have enough eggs in time for a holiday that increases egg demand -- Easter.

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