Poultry farmers who scaled up egg production three times over the past decade and supplied protein at cheaper prices are now in a battle for survival because of an abnormal increase in feed and fuel prices.
The price hikes coupled with frequent load shedding have pushed up the costs of egg production to an unbearable level, forcing many of the marginalised entrepreneurs to leave the business, sector insiders said.
Although large-scale entrepreneurs continue farming with generators, small farmers cannot go for the alternative power system due to its high installation and operational costs, which is why many kept their farms closed, they added.
"Running the generator for 8-10 hours of load shedding is not cost-effective. Many cannot afford that. Besides, the cost of feed has already increased. All in all, poultry farming is now in crisis," Md Armanur Rahman, general secretary of the Rangpur Sadar Upazila Poultry Industry Owners Association, told The Business Standard.
Breeders Association of Bangladesh General Secretary Mahabub-ur-Rahaman said sometimes there are outages for over ten hours throughout a day.
"We have no alternative to relying on generators but fuel price hikes have made it tough. Moreover, variation in temperatures often spoils eggs, and baby chickens are malnourished."
He further added that if the situation prolongs, the cheap protein supply will fall drastically, leading the lower-income groups to malnutrition.
The production cost per egg reached Tk10.5 this month, up 40% from Tk7.5 in August last year, according to the Bangladesh Poultry Industries central council. Hence, the retail price also increased to Tk12 from Tk9 an egg.
Entrepreneurs, however, said they often cannot recover production costs selling eggs in the competitive market.
"If small farmers do not get fair prices, the supply chain of poultry egg and meat will collapse," said Moshiur Rahman, president of the Bangladesh Poultry Industries central council.
He urged the government to come up with short and long-term action plans to save poultry farmers, especially small ones.
Industry insiders say the outbreak of coronavirus in late 2019 hit the poultry sector hard, forcing many to close their businesses. After the reopening, the prices of raw materials increased excessively amid the Russia-Ukraine war.
Now, load shedding makes the situation worse.
Amid such a situation, Bangladesh observes World Egg Day today keeping pace with the rest of the world. This day is celebrated on the second Friday of October every year.
According to the Department of Livestock Services, egg production in the country tripled to 2,335 crore in FY22 over the past 10 years.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, an average person needs to eat 104 eggs per year. In Bangladesh, the per capita availability of eggs was 136 in that year.