Falling egg prices leave poultry farmers in a bind
Poultry farmers around the country are counting their losses and struggling to run their businesses as the price of each egg at the farm level has fallen by between Tk 3 to Tk 3.5 in the span of one month.
Farmers alleged that egg prices fell after the Commerce Ministry decided to allow five firms to import five crore pieces of eggs in order to increase the supply of the protein item and check its prices in the domestic market on October 8.
The Daily Star spoke to nearly a dozen egg growers in Savar and Dhamrai, who alleged that they were making losses ranging from Tk 0.50 to Tk 3 per egg.
Anowar Hossen, an egg grower in Dhamrai's Makhulia area who has 3,300 layers in his farm producing around 3,000 eggs per day, said: "One month ago, I would sell 100 pieces of white eggs to wholesalers for TK 1,000 to Tk 1,100, but now 100 pieces of white eggs are being sold for TK 720 to Tk 750," he said.
"We have been facing huge losses since the government permitted the import of eggs," said Anowar, adding that they would welcome a decision from the government to control and reduce the price of poultry feed, medicine and chicks.
"If the government can do that, we can profit despite selling for lower prices," said Anower, who has 20 years of experience in this sector.
"If the price of eggs doesn't increase, I will have to close down my farm within a couple of months," he lamented.
Aminur Rahman, an egg producer in Dhamrai's Borochandrail area who has 2,700 egg-producing poultry birds in his farm, said the price of eggs was falling day by day.
"How will I run my farm? It costs Tk 8 to Tk 8.50 to produce an egg and the egg has to be sold at Tk 7.20 to Tk 7.50. One month ago, we were in good condition but now we are counting huge losses," he said.
Abdur Rahman, an egg grower in Savar's Vakurta area, said he had started the business after seeing the potential of the sector but was now watching his losses pile up with each passing day.
Mohammad Barkat Ali Mia, an egg grower in Pabna, said he would sell each egg at Tk 11 to Tk 12 a month ago, but could now fetch only Tk 8 to Tk 9.
He claimed that it currently costs Tk 10.50 to produce each egg.
"I am now selling eggs at a loss to survive in the business and hope to make a profit in the coming days. Profit and loss is a part of business," he said, adding that prices started falling the day the import of eggs was allowed.
In addition, a kind of panic has been created among the traders since the Directorate of National Consumers' Right Protection started conducting raids and punishing traders that were setting higher prices for the protein item. Because of this, many growers are selling at lower prices, he added.
Poultry farmers in Dinajpur are facing similarly severe setbacks after the market price for eggs experienced a significant and sudden decline. They are now selling eggs for around Tk 8.60 each.
Imtiaz Kawsar, a farmer from the Biral Upazila in Dinajpur, expressed deep concern over the sudden drop in egg prices.
He opined that the current market rate fell well below the sustainable threshold for profitability, which he pegged at around Tk 11 per egg.
Kawsar highlighted the challenges faced by egg producers, stating that high production costs make it difficult for them to cover expenses and generate a reasonable income.
The unexpected decline in egg prices has left farmers grappling with the prospect of financial insolvency and potential losses, he said.
Sahdev Kumar Mahto, a farmer at the Bagmara area of Sherpur upazila in Bogura, said that the wholesale price of each egg was Tk 10.50 to Tk 10.70 a month ago. But now each egg is being sold at Tk 8.30 to Tk 8.50.
Experts are urging stakeholders in the industry to take swift action to stabilise prices and ensure that they are remunerated fairly for their efforts.
Md Aftabuzzaman, associate professor of the department of poultry science at Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, opined that if it costs Tk 10.25 for a farmer to produce an egg, then he has to get a fair price or he will not be able to survive in the business.
At present, an egg is being sold at Tk 10 to Tk 10.75 at the retail level, he said. Even at the highest range, farmers will struggle to make a profit as wholesalers and middlemen will also take a cut.
He added that the sharp drop in prices since imports began pointed to foul play by middlemen.
"The price of eggs in the market had increased a lot recently due to the excessive profits of middlemen. That's pretty much proven now. Otherwise, prices would not have come down at such a rate after the government allowed the import of eggs," he added.
"In the end, farmers are suffering. They don't have the power to manipulate the market. Their production costs have gone up but they are not getting a fair price," he said.
"The middlemen realised that it would be detrimental for them if imports continued. Then they started buying eggs at a lower price," Aftabuzzaman added.
He added that the market management system in Bangladesh in terms of products reaching the consumers from the production level was ineffective.
About 3.5-4 crore eggs are required to meet daily demand in the country, producers say.