To protect the local poultry industry, its leaders representing the Bangladesh Poultry Association (BPA) at a recent meeting with press are learnt to have appealed to the government not to import egg from the international market. There is no question that the local poultry sector needs protection as on it hinges the livelihood of millions of families of the country. But the point is why should the question of importing egg should at all arise, if the local poultry sector can ensure an adequate supply of egg for the public at an affordable price? One might well recall here the last August's bitter experience of the common consumers when egg price went through the roof without rhyme or reason.
As if not to lag behind other pricey essential commodities, the egg, too, then suddenly became a luxury food item. It was shocking to the consumers from the low and fixed income group. After dropping fish and meat from their shopping list for obvious reason, they were still holding on to egg, if only for its affordable price, to meet, especially, their children's need for protein. But that source of cheaper animal protein was also gone. Since there was no shortage of supply, sudden volatility of the egg market raised a few eyebrows. Raids were conducted by the government agency, Directorate of National Consumers Right Protection (DNCRP), on the businesses dealing in egg and broiler chicken. Also, the government threatened to import egg, if necessary. Not surprisingly, the price of egg came down as fast as it did go up. Obviously, somebody somewhere in the long supply chain of egg from its producers to its consumers was doing something wrong and artificially creating crisis in the egg market. The DNCRP's investigation found that the wholesalers, who earlier would normally make a profit of 15 to 20 paisa per piece of egg, were, between August 9 and August 13, found making a windfall profit of Tk 2.70 per egg instead. In other words, each dozen of this item was then selling at around Tk160.
Following the drive against the suspected market manipulators, the government agency in question found that a nexus of some dishonest traders and middlemen were active behind making the egg market volatile. In the process both the consumers and small producers of egg were being cheated. But the government cannot also think of controlling the market through occasional drives against unscrupulous elements. It has to mount stronger monitoring of the market equipped with sufficient data for the purpose. In fact, the government should immediately start work to create a digital database with updated information on egg from its production to each phase of its supply chain till it reaches the retailers' end. It is this information that can help the government pinpoint the source of market manipulation at any point of time.
In this connection, the BPA can come in a big way to help the government in keeping the egg market stable. In that case, the question of importing eggs by any quarter, government or private, would not arise. Of course, to protect the poultry sector, especially, the small and marginal farmers, the government should extend necessary support including soft bank loans and subsidy to them.