CIUDAD JUAREZ, CHIHUAHUA.- How do you like your eggs? Whatever your preference, avoid the ones smuggled across the border.
Attempts to smuggle eggs from Mexico or Canada can result in fines of up to $10,000 USD, officials warn.
And yet, soaring egg prices in the US have tempted many to cross the border, where they can be bought for half the price, to bring back the delicate cargo,
Seizures at border posts have spiked by more than 100%.
US egg prices were up 60% in December compared to the previous year. Between 1 October and 31 December alone, egg and poultry seizures rose 108%, according to Department of Agriculture statistics.
Earlier this week, Jennifer De La O, the director of Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) San Diego Field Operations, tweeted that her office has “recently noticed an increase in the number of eggs intercepted at our ports of entry”.
For some local residents, attempts to purchase eggs in Mexico come as no surprise. A local affiliate of the BBC’s US partner CBS reported that a carton of a dozen eggs costs nearly $8 at some mini-markets in border communities, compared to less than $3 across the border in Tijuana, Mexico.
Anthony Gago, the owner of a market in San Ysidro – which sits on the border with Mexico – noted that some unhappy customers turn away and cross the border into Mexico when faced with high prices.
“Our 100-count eggs are $40. If you buy them separately they cost you $9.99 and it’s obviously more expensive if you buy five,” Mr. Gago said.
Border Report, a website that focuses on the US-Mexico border, reported a similar trend along the border between El Paso, Texas – where eggs often cost about $6 – and Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where a carton of eggs costs approximately $3.40.
“My advice is, don’t bring them over,” CBP Supervisory Agriculture Specialist Charles Payne was quoted as saying. “If you fail to declare them or try to smuggle them, you face civil penalties.”
According to Mr, Payne, the high fines of up to $10,000 are reserved for illegal commercial shipments. Individuals face civil fines of approximately $300, and those who declare their eggs may avoid fines altogether – although the eggs will be seized and ultimately destroyed.
“The advantage of declaring it is, we will pick it up with no penalty issued. If you fail to declare it or if you attempt to smuggle it, there’s going to be a penalty,” Mr Payne told Border Report.
It is unclear how many of the egg seizures stemmed from attempted illegal commercial shipments, compared to attempts by individual consumers.
The US government’s consumer price index shows that – nationally – the price of a dozen large eggs stood at $1.93 in January of 2022, compared to $4.25 by December.