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Summer drought boosting egg prices

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CANTON — The hot, dry summer has boosted the price of eggs at some area grocery stores, and consumers may find higher price tags on other foods in the coming weeks.

This week, a dozen large was selling for $1.99 at Price Chopper, University Plaza, about 50 cents higher than normal.

“This summer’s extreme heat has slowed egg production and caused a significant increase in the price of eggs,” a sign in front of the display informs customers.

The Potsdam IGA store, 27 Elm St., has boosted its dozen-egg price by 50 cents in response to increased costs from its supplier, Giroux’s Poultry Farm Inc., Chazy. A carton of 12 large eggs sells for $2.19.

“Our eggs have gone up in the last couple of weeks,” said IGA store owner Richard J. “Chip” Cross. “They go up every summer when there’s a heat spell. They may have gone up a little more this year than usual.”

Hot weather may cause chickens to reduce the number of eggs they lay or result in smaller-sized eggs, said Brent A. Buchanan, an agricultural official with St. Lawrence County’s Cornell Cooperative Extension.

However, he said, a bigger factor this year is the increased cost of feeding poultry.

The lack of rain earlier this summer damaged corn and soybeans, which are the primary crops fed to chickens raised on commercial poultry farms.

Those who raise free-range chickens aren’t as affected by the drought because their chickens primarily feed on insects.

The crop shortages have boosted the cost of cornmeal and soybean meal; poultry growers pass on their higher expenses to grocery stores and other customers.

“The price of corn and soybeans has steadily gone up. First, you see the fallout in the egg prices,” Mr. Buchanan said. “Then it starts to spill over into other groups.”

Typically, a spike in egg prices is followed by higher prices for poultry, pork, lamb and beef, he said.

Electricity costs also go up when farms use large fans and humidity-control systems to regulate temperatures for poultry.

A higher demand for U.S. grain products in Europe also is a factor in driving up costs this year, Mr. Buchanan said.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicted that consumers would pay 3 percent to 4 percent more at the supermarket in 2013 as a result of the drought that hit more than half the country this summer.

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