The poultry sector, which is yet to fully heal from pandemic-caused wounds, is now taking a fresh beating from long hours of power outages and the cascading effects of a record hike in fuel prices.
Everyday load shedding of up to 10 hours has resulted in a slump in production of chicks, meat and eggs. On top of it comes costly diesel-run private generators as backup power during power cuts, and which has eventually translated into already-soaring production costs.
Increased transportation charges also come in the form of an additional cost burden on poultry farmers.
Eventually, consumers are also bearing the brunt of all such costs – broiler chicken now sells at Tk190-Tk200 per kg, while a hali (four pieces) of eggs costs Tk48-Tk50 in Dhaka kitchen markets.
According to data from Trading Corporation of Bangladesh, broiler chickens and eggs have registered 22% and 15% rises in prices respectively in the span of a month.
Industry entrepreneurs say many farm owners are now staying away from poultry rearing, fearing losses as chickens in many farms have already died from excessive heat amid long hours of load shedding.
Uninterrupted power supply is a must for a chicken farm, they note, adding that small farm owners have stopped production as they cannot afford diesel-run generators during power cuts, leading to a shortage of supply to the market.
Md Armanur Rahman, general secretary of Rangpur Sadar Upazila Poultry Industry Owners Association, told The Business Standard, "Small- and medium-sized poultry farms in my locality have stopped production because of the power crisis. They are unable to spend money on diesel-run generators."
Whoever goes for poultry production in sweltering sheds during the ongoing hot weather conditions, sees the death of chickens in conditions without private power generators, he pointed out.
So the supply of broiler chickens has dropped in the market while prices have shot up.
Md Masum, a wholesaler at Tejgaon, told TBS that most broiler chickens he sells at his warehouse come from the northern region. The transport fare has now increased to Tk25,000-Tk27,000 per pickup van.
Broiler chicken now costs Tk160 per kg at the wholesale, he said.
On the other hand, chick breeding costs have also shot up as breeder farms are having to spend extra on power generators during load shedding. That is why per chick production cost has also gone up by Tk2.5-Tk2.75.
Chick breeding farm owners say demand for one-day-old chicks has dropped by 25%-30% in the face of falling production in poultry farms, caused by slackening demand, while their prices rose to Tk25-Tk30 apiece from Tk15 in the span of 15 days.
Mahabubur Rahaman, general secretary of Breeders Association of Bangladesh, told TBS, "We are experiencing load shedding of 8-10 hours every day. Sometimes it goes up to 16 hours. So, we are forced to rely on fuel-run generators. But a massive hike in diesel price has made it difficult for us to spend extra on production."
On the one hand, chick production costs are increasing and, on the other hand, demand has declined, he added.
Poultry farm owners say the cost of broiler meat production has also registered up to a Tk10 hike, including transportation, marketing and other expenses.
Abu Lutfe Fazle Rahim Khan, managing director of Aftab Bahumukhi Farms Limited, said, "Meat consumption has been reduced by at least 30% in the current situation. As a result, we are forced to waste 25-30% of the chicks that we are producing."
The company is now spending Tk45, inclusive of all costs, on producing a chick, but it is forced to sell at Tk27-28 apiece in the market, he noted.
In the meantime, production cost of poultry feed has almost doubled in the last one year. Following the enforcement of rolling power cuts and the fuel price hike, cost has risen by Tk1 per kg, say entrepreneurs.
Rakibur Rahman, managing director of Nahar Agro, said, "Failing to sustain losses, marginal entrepreneurs are leaving the poultry business. In this situation, the government should take concerted action regarding the Poultry Board as soon as possible to save the industry."