In 2022, the price of eggs, on and off, had been Tk125 to Tk140 per dozen with a rapid rise to above Tk155 at some point. In 2023, the price was between Tk130-Tk140 per dozen on average until August when a dozen reached above Tk170.
The shockwave, consequently, was felt across the country. The price gradually fell but remained around Tk150 to Tk155 in the retail market.
It means the abnormal rise of the egg price last year (Tk155) is turning into the 'normal' range in 2023.
The government has set per piece of egg Tk12.00 (TK144 per dozen) to tame the market a bit only to see that it didn't reflect so in the market. Per piece, the cost is above Tk12.50, on average, in the retail.
The country's daily egg production currently stands to 3.75 crore against a daily demand of 4 crore. Recently, the government decided to allow the import of 10 crores of eggs, which is expected help meet the daily national demand for 40 days.
The farmers and the market insiders say this move could solve the skyrocketing market for now. But it will only damage the local farmers, and eventually prolong the crisis.
The government, however, didn't decide to import the eggs overnight. After days of efforts to curb the ever-increasing price failed, they took the import decision after days of warning the local industry to reduce the price.
But the farmers and market insiders we interviewed said instead of taking action on where the solution lies, which in this case is the corporates who control the feed and chick markets, the government decided to rub for solution in import which will eventually damage the marginal farmers who have been suffering due to the increasing chick and feed costs besides other costs which are high.
The price back to the normal range [125-130 range] is possible, an insider told The Business Standard if the corporations who control the feed market reduce the feed price and chick price which has been doubled per piece in a year — leading to an increase in production costs for the marginal farmers.
"Our employees' salary nearly doubled, electricity price increased, the Khachi – where we raised the chicken – now costs Tk270k which would cost Tk125k before, per piece of chick which would cost Tk25 a year ago now cost Tk55 to Tk60 per piece," said Rashidul Islam, a farmer based in Bhaluka, Mymensingh.
"I sold per piece Tk11.10 today to Mohajan in Dhaka. If you ask me to sell this below this rate now given my expenses, I will not survive in this sector, we farmers won't survive," Rashidul said, adding, "Many people left the market a year ago, many became bankrupt and went abroad, many ran away indebted."
Rashidul had 3,000 chickens a year ago, he now has 1,000 chickens.
"I need 2.5 sacks for 1,000 chickens every day. Per sacks of feed would cost Tk1,700 which now costs above Tk2500. How can I survive with hiking prices like this?" he added.
Another farmer Fojlul Hok said the rising expenses in the production costs which comes in the format of feed price being high, chicks and other prices being high, "I will make loss if I am asked to reduce prices at the moment. To get back to the previous price, feed cost has to be reduced."
How to return to the normal price?
"Yes, returning to the previous price is possible," said Sumon Hawladar, president of the Bangladesh Poultry Association. "But when our law says the corporate groups can make 60% profits, the corporate groups are making 100%-200% profits in chicks, 50% in feed and 60% profits in chicken and eggs."
"The government is not interfering here. If the price of feed and chicks is not reduced, and they don't reduce their profit margin, it increases our production costs. The corporate is increasing my production costs intentionally," he added.
The price of broiler feed has increased by 51% and layer feed (used in egg production) has increased by 58.97% during February-March 2023 compared to 2020, leading to an average production cost rise of 120%-130%, a recent TBS report revealed.
He said the feed price, for the solution to the current crisis, has to be reduced along with the chick prices which the same corporate groups like Kazi Farms, Paragons, Nourish, and Aftab groups produce.
"The problem started after the pandemic. Before Covid, the corporation didn't produce eggs and chicken. They would produce only feed and chicks. But after Covid, they started producing 15% egg and chicken but they control the market because they produce 100% chicks and feed," Sumon said.
"As for a solution, the corporate group must stop producing 15% eggs and chicken. The price of chick and feed has to be brought down reasonably. Reduce my production cost and I will again sell eggs at 10.50 per piece. And reducing the price cost is possible. Everywhere in the international market, the price has fallen. Why not in the Bangladesh market?" he added.
Shamsul Arefin Khaled, the president of the Bangladesh Poultry Industry Central Council (BPICC), in a recent TBS report, was mentioned saying that it is essential to determine the actual demand and create production plans accordingly. He recommended, in an event, that the government allow the import of some alternative feed components from India at zero duty to reduce feed prices.
Sumon Hawladar said that instead of solving what is increasing the production costs, the import of eggs will damage the marginal farmers.
"Instead of checking on the corporates, the government is executing operations in the retail market. The marginal farmers' profit margin has not much to do with price hikes. And the import will have a temporary solution but in the long run, this will destroy the industry," Sumon said.