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Summer drought boosting up 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 of large eggs costs $1.99 at Canton’s Price Chopper grocery store, 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 also 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 sells for $2.19.

“Our eggs have gone up in the last couple of weeks,” said Richard “Chip” J. Cross, IGA store owner. “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 during said Brent A. Buchanan, an agricultural official from St. Lawrence County’s Cornells 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 soybean crops which are the primary ingredients fed to chickens raised on commercial poultry farms. Those who raise free-range chickens aren’t impacted as much by the drought because their chickens primarily feed on insects and bugs.

The crop shortages has boosted the cost of cornmeal and soybean meal. Poultry growers pass on their higher expenses to grocery stores and other customers that buy their eggs and other products.

“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 their poultry. A higher demand for U.S. grain products in Europe is also playing 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 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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