At the rate the price of eggs is going these days, don’t be surprised if your significant other swaps roses with a dozen eggs as your Valentine’s Day gift this coming Feb. 14.
A quick check at some of the leading groceries on island pegs the cost of this food staple at $6.99 for a dozen of extra-large-sized eggs and $5.99 for large-sized eggs.
The nearly 50% increase in egg prices these past couple of months has forced many on Saipan to reconsider their breakfast options.
Cherry Velasco-Lumbana said they’ve already cut their consumption of eggs due to its prohibitive cost. Good thing, the mother of four from Fina Sisu has a sister who has egg-laying hens.
“So, I just ask for eggs from her now,” she said.
Velasco-Lumbana said they used to consume a dozen eggs a week, but it’s now down to 3-4 eggs.
With eggs coming in at almost $7 a crate, Mabelle Subang has also been forced to budget the number of eggs she cooks for breakfast.
But don’t tell what Velasco-Lumbana and Subang do to Tisha Ferrer, a mother of two who lives in Garapan. “We can’t live without eggs. So I just close my eyes whenever I buy one. No choice because we just love eggs.”
Ferrer said they usually consume a dozen eggs a week and their favorite dish is making them into an egg salad spread that requires them to boil six eggs at one time.
Households are not the only ones affected by the meteoric rise in the cost of eggs, as Saipan’s restaurants have had to make hard choices on their menu options as well.
This comes as the price of lettuce has doubled the past few months, peaking at $10 during the past holiday season.
BAB Korean Restaurant’s Dante Suarez Conlu said they are looking at raising the prices of their popular Cup BAB menu because of the double whammy of the cost of eggs and lettuce going up. He said they use a lot of eggs and lettuce in their bibimbap and kimchi fried rice dishes.
“If you’ve noticed lately we changed lettuce to cabbage in our Cup BAB, but for eggs we really don’t have any alternatives. In our buffet, we still use lettuce because there’s no other option,” he said.
D’ Chef’s Kitchen & Bar chef Rico Delos Reyes said the crazy prices eggs and lettuce are fetching these days has affected his business because they use those ingredients for most of their food.
And it’s not just the eggs and lettuce that had incredible spikes in costs these past few months. It has come to a point where he has no choice but to also increase the price of items at D’ Chef’s Kitchen & Bar.
“It’s not just because of the high prices of egg and lettuce alone. Our price increase is long overdue. We keep on stretching because we really don’t want to change our prices for our customers. But the continued price increase of a lot of food ingredients gives us no choice but to change our prices a little,” he said.
A perfect example, he said, is the price of cooking oil. Delos Reyes said a 5-gallon container of cooking oil used to cost only $28.99, but now it retails at a whopping $54.99.
“So, if we’ll have our price increase, I think our customers will surely understand it and we are thankful for that,” he added.
Chowtime owner Anna Liza Alcantara doesn’t fully understand the rise in the cost of eggs and lettuce and described them as “unjustified.”
“It’s hard to increase our prices to reflect the rise in the cost of our ingredients. Our customers will have a hard time accepting that, especially those who don’t really earn a lot and rely on food stamps to get by,” she said.
Perhaps the only silver lining in the rising cost of eggs nowadays is that you don’t have to pair your purchase of a dozen eggs with another item when using your credit card in grocery stores, where there’s a $5 minimum purchase.
JCT Enterprises vice president Roman “Bo” Palacios said the rise in egg and lettuce prices is due to an ongoing bird flu epidemic and drought in California, where the CNMI’s supply of the green leafy vegetable comes from.
JCT Enterprises is a wholesale supplier of eggs and lettuce, among other food items.
“There’s a bird flu that basically resulted in the killing of a lot of chickens and these are egg-laying chickens in the United States. So, what had happened was these egg producers had to kill off millions of their chickens and that basically resulted in the shortage of supply of eggs,” he said.
While he doesn’t know when the bird flu epidemic in the U.S. mainland will end and hopefully ease the egg shortage, Palacios sees the wet weather California is currently enduring as a godsend for farmers in the state.
“Hopefully, with all the rain that California is getting right now that helps solve the drought issue, but these things are lagging because it takes some time to grow and produce lettuce. But we at Joeten, as soon as we see a stabilization in pricing, we immediately pass those savings on to the customer,” he added.
So, a dozen eggs with some leaves of lettuce on the side for the Day of Hearts?