The coronavirus crisis has brought about a sharp slump in demand for poultry products. Farms have been affected by unprecedented losses, and have cut back on meat and egg production.
Farms used to produce nearly 90,000 tonnes of poultry meat per month in normal times, but this has dropped to 25,000-27,000 tonnes now. Besides, egg production has also fallen drastically.
People working in the poultry sector said many of them have shuttered farms because they have had to sell chickens at throwaway prices. Meanwhile, the number of farms that have not brought in a new batch of chicks after selling mature birds is also on the rise.
The demand for poultry meat and eggs continues to fall as hotels, restaurants, bakeries and fast food joints have been closed since March 26 to curb the spread of coronavirus. Meanwhile, the enforcement of social distancing also means that mass gatherings like weddings are not being held.
Even though the country is still under lockdown, the restriction on movement has been eased a bit. But farmers are still facing difficulty in marketing chickens and eggs because the district-wise lockdown has disrupted the supply chain.
According to the Bangladesh Poultry Industry Central Council (BPICC), 50-60 percent of poultry farms have been shut down temporarily.
BPICC data shows that egg production has also fallen drastically amid the pandemic because 32-35 egg-producing farms have stopped production. Those that are still in production are facing difficulty in marketing and getting a fair price for this source of protein.
At present the price of an egg is below Tk4.50 per piece while the production cost is around Tk5.50. The country used to produce 4 crore eggs per day in normal times.
The BPICC has estimated that the loss to the country's poultry industry due to the virus fallout is Tk3,551 crore from March 26 to April 30.
Of the amount, losses in meat and egg production amount to Tk1,615 crore while other backward linkage industries incurred the rest of the losses.
According to the Department of Livestock Services, there are 88,000 poultry farms in the country, but people involved in the sector say that the number is more than 1 lakh.
"The normal production of eggs and chickens has stopped. Many of us cleared the farms by selling the birds at a throwaway price," BPICC member Ihtesham B Shahjahan told The Business Standard.
"However, the current egg production surpasses the current demand," he added.
The decrease in poultry farming production has also impacted breeders at chick hatcheries. The breeders have reduced day-old chick production.
The breeders had to sell day-old chicks at Tk1-2 each against the production cost of Tk35. According to the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Central Council (BPICC), more than 50 percent of the hatcheries have stopped production.
According to the BPICC, there are 120 chick breeding hatcheries that used to produce 14 lakh layer chicks and 1.70 crore broiler chicks per week.
"The nearly two-crore per week chick production has edged down to only 90 lakh now. Farmers are not bringing in and raising new chick during this crisis," said BPICC President Rakibur Rahman Tutul.
The hatcheries alone incurred an estimated loss of Tk800 crore due to the virus outbreak.
The department is trying to estimate the sector-wise losses, said Dr ABM Khaleduzzaman, assistant director (farms) of the Department of Livestock Services.
Meanwhile, people involved in the sector have put forward some demands to counter the virus fallout, including bank loan interest waivers for at least six months, widening the government announced stimulus coverage to root-level farmers, and including poultry products to relief good operations.