Border Authorities See Spike in Egg Smuggling As US Prices Soar

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
January 20, 2023Businessshare
Border Authorities See Spike in Egg Smuggling As US Prices Soar
Eggs and tortillas for sale at a market in Mexico City, on May 4, 2022. (Rodrigo Arangua/AFP via Getty Images)

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel are increasingly catching people attempting to smuggle raw eggs across the U.S. southern border at a time when poultry products are in high demand and prices are rising.

CBP officials told the Border Report that seizures of raw eggs increased by 108 percent between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31, 2022. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data showed that during that same time period, egg prices in the United States rose from an average of about $3.50 per dozen to $5.30 per dozen.

USDA data showed that the average price for a dozen large eggs was about $1.60 at the start of 2022 and continued to rise throughout the year to about $5.30. U.S. egg prices remain high, averaging about $4.70 for a dozen.

USDA data showed the sharpest spike in egg prices in 2022 came toward the end of October, amid outbreaks of avian flu.

Bird Flu and Inflation

Cases of avian or bird flu popped up in different areas around the country throughout 2022 and farmers in turn had to kill off millions of egg-laying hens. In November, Nebraska agricultural officials ordered 1.8 million hens killed over bird flu outbreaks. At least 52.3 million birds were killed off throughout the United States in 2022.

The USDA said 43 million egg-laying hens alone were killed by bird flu or depopulation measures between February and December 2022 and “as a result of recurrent outbreaks, U.S. egg inventories were 29 percent lower in the final week of December 2022 than at the beginning of the year.”

The 2022 bird flu outbreak came in two successive waves, according to the USDA. The second wave hit between September and December, killing off about 12.6 million hens. This outbreak also occurred during a period of increased demand, as people often bake more during the holiday season.

High inflation in the United States in 2022 has also contributed to the high prices for eggs and other food products.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data, prices for all products on the consumer price index increased by 6.5 percent from Dec. 2021 to Dec. 2022. Food prices overall increased by 10.4 percent and meat, poultry, fish, and egg prices specifically rose 7.7 percent.

Smugglers Face Fines

While border officials may be more concerned about the flow of people, drugs, and weapons across the U.S. border, those caught smuggling undeclared food items over the border could still face a fine of up to $10,000.

This week, the Director of Field Operations for CBP’s San Diego Field Office, Jennifer De La O sent out a tweet reminding travelers that they are prohibited from bringing raw eggs from Mexico into the U.S. due to concerns about bird flu and another avian contagion called Newscastle Disease.

CBP Supervisory Agriculture Specialist Charles Payne told the Border Report that the $10,000 fine for bringing undeclared agricultural products across the border typically applies to commercial shipments.

Payne said individuals bringing smaller numbers of undeclared eggs would likely face a smaller civil penalty of $300. Payne also said that if travelers tell CBP up front what they are bringing across the border, they may avoid the penalty altogether, but CBP agents will still confiscate and destroy the eggs.

“My advice is, don’t bring them over. If you fail to declare them or try to smuggle them, you face civil penalties,” Payne told Border Report.

CBP maintains a list of items on its website that people are prohibited or restricted from bringing into the United States.

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