A shortage of chickens will lead to higher egg prices in Sri Lanka through the Christmas season, according to the country’s The Nation newspaper.

D.D. Wanasinghe, chairman of the All Island Poultry Producers Association, said 40% of producers have halted production. He blamed high feed corn prices, accusing the Rajarata Maize Growers Association of controlling the corn market. The newspaper reported that the corn group pays 28 rupees per kilogram of corn to growers and sells it to chicken producers for Rs 44 to Rs 49 per kilogram.

The per-kilogram cost of imported corn is Rs 46 to Rs 47, reported The Nation. Sri Lanka uses 200,000 metric tons of corn annually but only produces 125,000 metric tons domestically, according to the newspaper.

K.S.P. Perera, secretary of the Rajarata Maize Growers Association, said his group contracts in advance to purchase corn from local farmers. He added that corn resale prices reflect seasonal availability and play a minor, if any, role in the chicken and egg shortage. He said hatchery closures were ordered by the government because of a salmonella outbreak.

But Wanasinghe said salmonella cases have been isolated, with no effect on production. “The problem surfaced in one or two cages in some hatcheries and it was tackled immediately by depopulating and then reducing the number of birds in the affected cages,” he told The Nation.