Sufficient production and development of poultry farms have helped towards the increase in daily egg consumption by people across the country. Though egg prices have increased, entrepreneurs are yet to see any profit. As per nutrition experts, poultry eggs help make up for local protein deficiency. Bangladesh Poultry Industries Central Council (BPICC) maintains that the egg production has also increased for the local market as the number of farms increased between 2016 and early 2017. This led to increase in production of the protein source as a target was set to produce 14.79 billion eggs in 2018. The target for the current year has already been achieved.
A total of 6.39 billion eggs were produced in 2014, 7.12 billion in 2015, some 8.21 billion in 2016 and 10.22 billion in 2017. But the farmers are incurring losses mainly due to increased production costs caused by a spike in prices of raw materials, feed and medicines. At the farm gates, each egg is now selling for Tk 4.10 to Tk 4.70. This is much lower than the production cost of Tk 5.5, although its retail prices have recently increased by Tk 10 to over Tk 9.00 per dozen. As production is higher than demand, the farm-gate prices of eggs have remained low.
About 45.0 million eggs are produced every day at present in 2018. At the end of 2016, the daily production of chicken eggs was about 22.5 million, according to the apex body of poultry associations the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Central Council (BPICC). Yet, consumption has not increased to keep pace with the supply.
But the cost of production has gone up, particularly for the prices of feed. In 2016, eggs were sold at Tk 6.47 each when prices of feed were Tk 30 per kilogramme. In 2017, farms sold eggs at Tk 5.46 each, nearly 15 percent less than the previous year.
Feed costs rose 7.0 per cent to Tk 30 each kilogramme in 2017 from a year earlier in 2016. And in January 2018, the cost of feed went up 10 percent to Tk 33 per kilogramme. On the other hand, the average prices of eggs fell to Tk 5.35 each. One bird lays seven eggs after taking a kilogramme of feed. In addition, Tk 0.50 and Tk 0.35 are added to the total production cost as inventory and other costs. Between 2017 and 2018, farmers did not incur losses as prices were higher than production costs. This encouraged many to invest. But a section of small farmers have started pulling out because of an uneven competition with biggies coming up in the business.
The prices of eggs were dull during the beginning of 2018 because of oversupply, according to wholesalers of eggs at Dhaka's Tejgaon, one of the biggest wholesale hubs in the country. About 5.0 million eggs are brought to Tejgaon daily now, up from about 3.5 million pieces a couple of years ago. At the retail level in Dhaka, prices declined five per cent to Tk 25 to Tk 28 for four eggs a few days back from a month ago. As per market data collected by the Trading Corporation of Bangladesh (TCB), the prices were 11 per cent less than a year ago. So the farmers are in a dire condition. The prices of various types of fish and vegetables are reasonable. So a section of people prefer fish to eggs, opines the Bangladesh Egg Producers Association.
Although farmers are in a tight corner, middlemen are doing fine. They are taking their margins as usual, say the producers, adding that eggs are selling at Tk 5.50 to Tk 6.75 at the retail level.
A study, carried out by the Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), revealed that four eggs give 26 grams of protein, which cost Tk 30 to Tk 40 in the current market, while 100 grams of Hilsha, mutton and beef will give 22, 26 and 25 grams of protein respectively and cost Tk 80, Tk 65 and Tk 50.
Another study found that 24 per cent of Bangladesh's women are suffering from long-term malnutrition, leading to 9.2 million children struggling with anaemia and stunting. Eggs can be a major source of protein, malnutrition experts said, for pregnant mothers and children. It also contains an excellent source of choline which is a must for memory and brain development. The BAU research suggests pregnant women should have at least one egg a day which will directly help the baby in the womb develop better brain functions.
In the meanwhile, BPICC has urged the government to withdraw import duty on the raw materials for the poultry sector and promote egg consumption in state-owned media. It is hoped that in the near future Bangladesh will also experience consumption of eggs in different forms to create a demand for value-added items like liquid eggs or powdered eggs to meet the protein requirement of the people across the country.
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre.
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