The contrasting world of global egg production

Hans-Wilhelm Windhorst1 

Analyses dealing with the dynamics and patterns of the global poultry industry mostly focus on the leading countries. This is also the case for papers of the author dealing with egg and poultry meat production. When preparing a detailed analysis dealing with the dynamics of global poultry meat trade (Windhorst 2020), I realized that the group of the least developed countries (LLDC) was ignored. That was the reason for dealing with these countries in more detail. In this analysis, the role of the 10 leading countries in global egg production here referred to as the Champions League Countries (CLC), will be compared to that of the LLDC. This will enable insights into the extraordinary contrast between the situations of the egg industry in the two country groups.

The imbalance between their share in the global population and in egg production

In 2018, 4.2 billion people lived in the ten CLC, a share of 54.6 % in the global population. They contributed 67.6 % to the global laying hen inventory and 68.4 % to global egg production. With 1.0 billion inhabitants, the 46 LLDC, of which ten will be analysed in detail in this paper, shared 13.2 % in the global population. They contributed 6.4 % to the global laying hen inventory and only 2.5 % to global egg production
(Table 1).

Table 1:
The share of the CLC and LLDC in the global population, laying hen inventory and egg production in 2018
(Source: FAO database)


A closer look at the data in table 1 reveals the drastic imbalance between the share of the ten CLC and 46 LLDC in the global population and egg production. The population of the CLC was more than four times higher than that of the LLDC, but their egg production volume 27 times higher than that of the least developed countries. Of the ten CLC, five were located in Asia. They shared 48.4 % in the global egg production; three in the Americas with a contribution of 15.6 % and two in Europe, sharing 4.4% in the global production volume. In contrast, 31 of the 46 LLDC were located in Africa; they contributed only 0.9 % to global egg production, the nine Asian countries 1.6 %, the five Oceanian and the one American country less than 0.1 %.

Patterns of the laying hen inventories and egg production in the CLC

In 2018, the ten CLC kept 5.1 billion laying hens. The six Asian countries contributed 3.9 billion or 77.5 %, the three American countries 976 mill. (19.3%) and Russia, the only European country, 161 mill. (3.2 %). The regional concentration in the group of the CLC was very high. The three leading countries, China, USA and Brazil, shared 49.4 % in the global laying hen inventory and 73.1 % in the inventory of the CLC.

The group of the ten CLC produced 52.5 mill. t of eggs in 2018, 68.4 % of the global production volume. The five Asian countries shared 70.6 % in the total production volume of the CLC, the three American countries 22.9 % and the two European countries 6.5 %.

In egg production, the regional concentration in the group of the CLC was also very high. The five Asian countries shared 48.4 % in the global egg production and 70.6 % in the production volume of the CLC.

A comparison of the composition and ranking of the countries regarding their inventories and egg production reveals some interesting changes. Bangladesh and Pakistan ranked as numbers six and nine in the list of the inventories. Turkey and Ukraine replaced them in the list of egg production, they ranked ninth and tenth place. Japan, only in tenth place regarding the laying hen inventory, ranked as number six in egg production, an indicator for the efficiency of the Japanese egg industry. India´s rank in egg production may be challenged. An egg production of 5.2 mill. t with 315 mill. laying hens, as published by FAO, would require an average laying rate of 265 eggs per hen and year. Considering the average size of layer farms and the production systems, such an average seems hardly possible, in particular when comparing it to the laying hen inventory and egg production in China (Windhorst 2019).

Table 2:
Laying hen inventories and egg production in the ten CLC in 2018
(Source: FAO database)

*sum does not add because of rounding

The forgotten world – egg production in the least developed countries

In 2018, the 46 LLDC shared 13.2 % in the global population but contributed only 2.5 % to global egg production. When looking at the situation at continent level, the wide difference between their shares in population, laying hen inventory and egg production becomes obvious (Table 3). The LLDC reached the highest share in the population in Africa, followed by Asia, Oceania and the Americas. This ranking was the same in their contribution to the laying hen inventories and in egg production. In Africa, the LLDC shared 30.2 % in the laying hen inventory and 21.1 % in egg production. In Asia, too, their share in egg production was much lower than in the continent´s population. The gap was even wider in Oceania and Haiti, the only LLDC in the Americas.

Table 3:
The share of the LLDC in the population, the laying hen inventory and in egg production of the respective continents in 2018
(Source: own calculations based on FAO data)

A comparison of the share in the laying hen inventories an in egg production reveals the low efficiency in laying hen husbandry in the LLDC in relation to the industrialised and threshold countries. Local breeds, less quality feed and the lack of veterinary services are the main reasons for the low efficiency. In many countries, small backyard flocks are dominating. In Asia, these small farms are a continuous threat regarding the introduction and dissemination of the Avian Influenza virus. It can be assumed, however, that the available inventory and production data is too low and does not necessarily indicate an insufficient availability of eggs for the rural population. In many small farms, laying hens are double purpose hens and are raised for egg production and as a meat source.

Of the 480 mill. laying hens in the 46 LLDC, 389 mill. or 81.0 % were concentrated in the ten leading countries, 41.1 % in Bangladesh and 17.6 % in Myanmar alone. The six African countries, listed in Table 4, only shared 17.5 % in the total laying hen inventories of the LLDC. The wide gap between the two Asian countries and Burkina Faso is obvious and already indicates the low development status of the egg industry in the African LLDC.

Table 4 also lists the ten leading LLDC in egg production in 2018. The regional concentration was very high. The two leading countries, Myanmar and Bangladesh, contributed 55.8 % to the overall egg production of the LLDC. In both countries, egg production increased by over 300,000 t during the preceding decade. It is worth noting that in Myanmar the laying hen inventory grew by 35.9 mill. birds, in Bangladesh by 81.5 mill. Obviously, the efficiency of the egg industry in Myanmar was higher than in Bangladesh. Capital investment of the Thai CP Group and the increasing use of hybrid hens and high-quality compound feed in the commercial farms were the main steering factors behind the difference in the dynamics. Of the African countries, the egg industry in Tanzania made remarkable progress, due to an increasing domestic demand. Eggs were produced as well in commercial farms near the bigger cities as in small backyard flocks in rural areas (SAPA Country Report Tanzania). The difference in the production volumes between the two leading Asian countries and most of the African countries is obvious, indicating the low efficiency in wide parts of the continent.

Hens per inhabitant – a measure for the self-sufficiency with eggs?

Hardly any data on the per capita consumption of eggs is available for the LLDC, so it is almost impossible to calculate the self-sufficiency rate. One can try to estimate it by calculating the number of laying hens per inhabitant (Table 5). It has to be considered, however, that also hardly any data is published for the laying rates of the hens in these countries. Assuming that in Tanzania a laying hen in a backyard flock would lay 120 eggs per year would mean that an average of 35 eggs were available per person and year. The fast increase of egg production in Myanmar and Bangladesh (see Table 4) is a result of the high number of hens per inhabitant. A comparison at continent level reveals that Africa with only 0.4 hens per person ranks far behind Asia and Europe. This documents the problem of supplying the population in many African countries with valuable animal proteins.

Table 4:
Laying hen inventories and egg production in the ten leading LLDC in 2018
(Source: FAO database)

*sum does not add because of rounding

A comparison of the data for Germany and the Netherlands, both not listed among the ten CLC, shows the extremely high self-sufficiency of the Netherlands and explains why they are the leading egg exporting country worldwide. Even with a laying rate of 290 eggs per hen, Germany, the leading egg importing country, had to import large amounts of eggs because of a per capita consumption of 235 eggs/year. In Europe as a whole, the egg industry produced a surplus and permitted exports. At the global scale, the relation between population and laying hen seems to be quite balanced. A detailed analysis at country level showed, however, the extraordinary differences. The gap between the Netherlands and Ethiopia, to mention two extreme positions, is extremely wide and impressively documents the contrasts in the global egg industry.

Table 5:
Laying hens per inhabitant in selected countries in 2018
(Source: own calculations based on FAO data)





1 The author is scientific director of the WING at the Hannover Veterinary University and Prof. emeritus of the University of Vechta, Germany
2 A list of the LLDC is available from: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QL.

Data source and literature

FAO database: www.faostat.org.

South African Poultry Association: Country Report Tanzania. http://www.sapoultry.co.za/pdf-statistics/tanzania-country-report.pdf. (achieved: April 21st, 2020).

Windhorst, H.-W.: Eiererzeugung in Asien: Indien – zwischen Tradition und Umbruch. In: Deutsche Geflügelwirtschaft und Schweineproduktion 71 (2019), Nr. 3, S. 4 -5.

Windhorst, H.-W.: Europa dominiert im Import und Export. Der Welthandel der wichtigsten Fleischarten im Jahr 2017 im Überblick. In: Fleischwirtschaft 100 (2020), Nr. 1, S. 22-24.


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