The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents across the United States-Mexico border are reporting a record number of encounters with people attempting to smuggle a surprising contraband – eggs – into the country.
The rise in smuggling encounters, which has raised many eyebrows, comes as the price of eggs in the United States soared 60 percent in December year-over-year, averaging $4.25 a dozen against last year’s average price of $1.92 a dozen. In New York, A Grade eggs were being sold even at higher prices in wholesale stores. In contrast, Mexico’s price for a kilogram of eggs—more than a dozen jumbo eggs—is between $1.59 and $2.71. The rise in price of eggs is driven in part by an outbreak of avian influenza, or bird flu, that was detected last February.
The Customs and Border Protection agents had more than 2,000 encounters with people trying to bring eggs into the United States from Mexico between Nov. 1 and Jan. 17, an agency spokesman told The New York Times. In the same 11-week period a year earlier, there were about 460 such encounters. The biggest spike was witnessed in California’s. border city of San Diego where the encounters jumped to 1,077 from 230, an increase of 368 percent.
It’s illegal to bring raw eggs from Mexico into the U.S. The Customs and Border Protection says this is to prevent further spread of disease including the avian flu, which is, according to experts “the worst outbreak we’ve ever had.” Customs and Border Protection is warning the public not to bring eggs or poultry across international borders, otherwise, they could face monetary penalties.
Accordinng to US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Service, avian influenza or bird flu has been reported in at least 47 states, affecting 582 million birds. United States is world’s second largest producer of chicken eggs, producing 6.7 million tons of eggs. China is world’s largest producer of eggs, with an annual production of more than 28 million tons. India, Inndonesia and Brazil are the other major producers of egg.
People entering the United States are required to declare if they are carrying items including meat, fruit, vegetables, animals and seeds in their luggage or vehicle. Travelers can face civil penalties of up to $1,000 if border officers find these types of items, which have not been declared. The fines are much higher if the items are found to be intended for commercial use.