Wholesale prices for a dozen grade A large eggs in the New York market averaged $1.21 in fourth quarter 2008, down over 14% from the same period in 2007, but well above the 5-year average for fourth quarter of 99 cents per dozen, the department’s Economic Research Service says in last month’s report.

For 2008, prices averaged $1.28 per dozen, 13 cents higher than the previous year. Prices moved higher throughout the fourth quarter, with prices averaging $1.19 in October, $1.24 in November, and $1.30 in December. Table egg production is expected to remain below the previous year through the first half of 2009, but then to move higher in the later part of the year. The average for the year is expected to be 4% lower than in 2008, ERS says.

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With the decline in the number of broiler eggs being placed in incubators, the estimates of hatching egg production in fourth-quarter 2008 and first-quarter 2009 were both reduced by 5 million-dozen to 265 million-dozen. Hatching egg production in 2009 is expected to decline on a year-over-year basis in the first half of 2009, but to expand in the second half of the year, roughly in line with expected broiler production.