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Petaluma producer predicts 25-cent hike as demand exceeds supply

  • A worker at Liberty Farms, in Petaluma, removes flats of eggs from a conveyer belt to be prepared for shipping on Monday, August 23, 2010.

Petaluma egg producer Arnie Riebli says local egg prices are more likely to rise than fall in the aftermath of the huge Iowa recall linked to a salmonella outbreak.

Riebli, one of the North Bay's largest egg producers, acknowledged Monday that demand could fall if enough consumers stop buying eggs. But he said the recall has squeezed supply, and food distributors already are calling his Sunrise Farms to see if he has extra eggs to sell.

"We've been getting phone calls," said Riebli, a partner in operations that produce more than 1 million eggs a day. "We have to say we're sorry, but we have to take care of the customers we have."

His prediction: prices will rise "at least 25 cents" a dozen.

Other industry observers say it's too early to know whether prices will rise or fall because of the salmonella outbreak. But generally they don't expect a big impact on consumer's pocketbooks.

"There's no particular reason to think this will show up in the supermarket as a big jump," said Daniel Sumner, a professor of agricultural economics and director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis.

On Monday, federal officials said the outbreak appears limited to two Iowa companies, Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms, but they don't know what caused it. Even so, they are urging consumers to thoroughly cook eggs and avoid eating "runny egg yolks," as Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said.

Officials also are urging shoppers to check carton shipping data for suspect eggs. A long list of recalled brands, plants and carton dates is available at the FDA website, fda.gov.

<WC1>Hamburg said the FDA hasn't had enough authority to help prevent outbreaks.

H<WC>e<WC1> said <WC>the salmonella outbreak shows how urgent it is for <WC1>Congress <WC>to<WC1> pass legislation <WC>now <WC1>stalled in the Senate that would increase the frequency of inspections and give the <WC>FDA<WC1> authority to order a recall. Companies now have to issue such recalls voluntarily.<WC>


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