In 2009, an estimated 62.1 million metric tons of eggs were produced worldwide from a total laying flock of approximately 6.4 billion hens. These numbers compare with 51.2 million metric tons of eggs from 5 billion layers in 2000.
See in accompanying Table 1 how the size and relative ranking of the top hen-egg producing countries has changed since 1990 and 2000. China again led the way with 26.6 million metric tons of eggs produced in 2009, alongside early indications that the Chinese egg output in 2010 was likely to rise further to about 27.1 million metric tons.
As China is the world’s largest egg producer and its annual tonnage is over four times that of the next-largest country (USA), it is no surprise that Asia has the biggest regional production.
The region holds around 64% of all laying hens. Chart 1, from FAO report Livestock in the balance, underlines how the territory of east and southeast Asia has far outstripped other regions for the growth of its egg output since the early 1980s.
In an analysis of the Asian egg market for the International Egg Commission in 2010, Professor Hans-Wilhelm Windhorst of the University of Vechta in Germany explained that the increase of 159% in Asian egg production between 1990 and 2008 owed much to the addition of 16.5 million metric tons to the volume produced by eastern Asia. The rise for this part of the region in that period exceeded 173%.
The eastern Asian sub-region contains two out of the three Asian countries (China, Japan and India) that contributed 46.1% of global egg production in 2008, said Windhorst, with China alone supplying 37.5%. India is included in the subset of southern Asia countries that showed the highest percentage rise in output over the 1990-2008 period, at nearly 224%. During this time, India’s egg production increased by 1.6 million metric tons per year.
According to a report by the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, egg production in China dropped by 1.5% between 2008 and 2009. Excess supplies combined with lower domestic consumption pushed down prices so that laying flocks were often culled or downsized. Also contributing to the cutback were outbreaks of avian leukosis virus J-ALV, which pushed some smaller backyard operators out of the egg business. The probable return to a near-1.9% increase for China’s egg sector in 2010 (see Chart 2) was attributed to the demand effects domestically from a strengthening world economy, but also to increased Chinese exports of eggs.
U.S. rate of lay
Egg production in the USA in 2009 reached 90.4 billion, only slightly more than the 90 billion produced in 2008. A survey by Egg Industry reported a 1% annual increase in output from flocks monitored in 2009, to 77.6 billion eggs, from flock levels averaging 280.4 million hens. The average U.S. flock achieved a rate of lay of 75.8 eggs per 100 layers, up from 75% in 2008.
This survey also identified 10 U.S.-based companies with 7 million or more laying hens in 2009. Between them they accounted for 132.3 million layers or about 47% of the national flock.
European Union egg production in 2009 was measured at 6.93 million metric tons, down from the 7.09 million metric tons recorded in 2008. First signs for 2010 were that the EU’s output would rebound only to 6.98 million metric tons. Chart 3 shows a preliminary view from the European Commission that a 2.3% increase was possible in 2010 and was expected to come mainly from extra volumes in Italy, Germany and the Netherlands.
In terms of the world total of laying hens, Table 2 from FAO data indicates 7.5% to be in Africa, slightly under 16% in the Americas, just over 64% in Asia-Pacific countries and about 12.5% in Europe.