Remember $6 per dozen eggs at the grocery store? The country’s biggest supplier of eggs rode avian flu, shortages and inflation last year to record sales and earnings. Net income in the first quarter of its previous fiscal year was $2.57 per share. Net income for this first quarter: 2 cents per share.
And that’s net; Cal-Maine had an operating loss of $6.8 million for the first quarter of its fiscal 2024, which ended Sept. 2, compared with operating income of $164 million for the prior-year’s first quarter.
“Conventional egg selling prices declined significantly in the first quarter of fiscal 2024 compared to the first quarter of fiscal 2023 as the U.S. egg supply recovers from the most recent HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] outbreak,” Max Bowman, vice president and chief financial officer, wrote in the company’s quarterly report, released Oct. 3.
The average selling price per dozen for conventional eggs was $1.24 for the first quarter of fiscal 2024 compared with $2.37 for the prior-year’s first quarter. Cal-Maine’s fiscal year ends on or about May 29.
Neither the red ink nor last year’s record $757 million profit are typical for this conservative, close-to-the-farm company. This quarter’s operating loss reflects not only the lower selling price of eggs but also increased labor costs, partially offset by slightly cheaper feed ingredient prices. The report also noted additional spending on bio-security measures to prevent a return of avian flu, which decimated laying hens and other birds last year.
All in all, the company reported sales of $459 million for the quarter, compared with $658 million for the same period last year.