No eggs were to be found in a dozen of groceries, supermarkets and food markets in Yerevan today, as families dashed out to buy food preparing for the traditional New Year feast.
In my local Erebuni food-market he price of eggs jumped up to 100 drams a piece (the usual price is 50-60 drams), but I couldn’t get my hands on it, nevertheless. A lady in front of my que paid 2000 drams for the 20 remaining. All I got is this crappy mobile photo-shot.
Half an hour later, someone bought the last box of eggs before me in SAS Supermarket in another part of the city, on central Amiryan street. The shop’s category manager said they received eggs 3 times that day, and every time it took 20-30 minutes to sell it off.
Fresh supermarket on Mashtots avenue and Star on Amiryan street were out of eggs too. I started to despair having spent 4 hours driving around town and checking various shops and markets.
My wife used her time more effectively – asked for help from neighbors, talked to the local grocery. By the time I got home she had bought more than enough eggs: a neighbor brought a dozen for us, the grocer hid under stall a dozen for us. So that’s settled for now.
Killing Egg Produces
The usual egg price over the past 3-4 years has been 35-40 drams per piece ($ 0.10-12 US). There used to be a number of medium and large egg producing companies, like Lusakert, Yerevan Bird Factory, Araks, Arzni, Ecco, Ashtarak Eggs. There are also the small village farms.
The situation changed sharply this summer, influenced by two factors.
Firstly, the price of fodder went up, because of bad harvest: too much rain in spring and very dry summer.
Secondly, the big egg producers waged a price war: egg price went down to 10-15 drams for about a month.
The price dumping, coupled with increased food prices forced smaller producers out of the market, some of them sold plants to the big guys, others found no other solution than to kill the livestock.
The issue with price dumping was referred to the State Commission for the Protection of Economic Competition, the body responsible for taking action against such developments in the market. The body said at the time, they “were studying the market” but they saw no indication of any wrongdoing and claimed, that the egg market in Armenia is “competitieve.”
Back to USSR
There is a tradition of laying out a big table on New Year’s eve, with all kinds of Armenian dishes. The table stays there for 3-5 days. Friends, relatives visit each others houses, enjoy each hospitality, share New Year wishes.
Lot’s of food and drinks are the main characteristic of the New Year table, which means, families spend a considerable amount of money buying up food and preparing for the celebrations.
Eggs are used in all sorts of Armenian food – they go into salads, pastry. So its no wonder, that the egg market, which now has become centralized, wasn’t able to meet the demand.
Last year at the same period of time I had no problem at all buying eggs! This year – I spent the whole day looking for them. This summer eggs were 15 drams, today they’re flying off market for 100 drams a piece.
There is more to it, however.
At the start of December, when the remaining large egg-producers saw they can’t meet the market demand, they sought to raise the prices for eggs. Price went up by 10-15 drams, and eggs which were sold for 45-50 were now traded at 60-65.
Noting the price hike, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan commanded the egg producers, owner of “Araks” and “Yerevan Paultry” Khachatur Khachatryan and owner of “Lusakert” factory Khachik Manukyan, to make sure the price of the eggs doesn’t go any further and threatening to take action.
The result is – Soviet-style shortage of eggs.
The issue of eggs can be solved one way or another, tomorrow, if not today.
However, I see a bigger problem – the authorities are trying to regulate the market first by helping their allies gain monopolies, than forcing them to stick to certain price ranges. This smells and sounds very much like the Soviet Union’s centralized and command-driven economy. And that, has been going on for some time already. A similar situation exists in fuel-import market, cooking oil, sugar, flour, and even imports of computers and mobile phones. And the list is rapidly expanding…