Despite thousands of poultry farms closing production owing to the pandemic-led business slump, the Department of Livestock Services (DLS) has come up with growth figures on egg and meat production in the recently concluded 2020-21 fiscal year.
Egg production spiralled by 321 crore pieces last year as meat production rose by 7.66 lakh tonnes during the period, according to the DLS's Livestock Economy Report 2020-21.
Per person daily meat availability is now 136.18 grams on average per day against the demand of 120 grams, as said in the report.
But the sector people say the figures do not reflect the reality as many hatchers shuttered businesses, thanks to a fall in demand, surged up production costs, and rock-bottom market rates for egg and poultry meat.
According to the Bangladesh Poultry Industry Central Council (BPICC), 30-35% egg producing farms and 40-45% meat producing poultry units shut down in the last one and a half years as demand plummeted by around 50%.
"The demand for poultry items declined drastically since schools, social and corporate events and tourist spots were closed. Many farm owners had to shutter businesses as they had been selling the products at lower rates than the production costs," Moshiur Rahman, president of the council, told The Business Standard.
He said, "Growth numbers reported by the livestock services department are not realistic."
According to the DLS report, Bangladesh is now producing more eggs than the per head annual demand. The per head egg availability jumped to 121 last year that was 104 previously.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a healthy person should consume 104 eggs a year.
Rural data do not back the growths
Upazila and district level data contradict with the DLS report on poultry productions.
Take for Jamalpur's Sarishabari upazila that had 626 poultry farms in the 2019-20 fiscal year, according to the local DLS office.
The number of poultry units in the upazila dropped to 590 last year which subsequently affected the egg and meat production.
Egg production in the upazila last year dropped to 10.77 crore from previous year's 10.89 crore pieces. Meat production too declined to 0.146 lakh tonnes from 0.157 lakh tonnes, according to the local DLS office.
However, Mazharul Islam, a local poultry feed trader, claimed the number of farms halved to 300 in the last one and a half years.
Other districts also provided a similar picture of poultry production drop like Sarishabari.
Md Rakibur Rahman Tutul, president of the Breeders Association of Bangladesh and also a director of the Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said there were 7,000 poultry farms in the district as 2,000 of them closed due to pandemic fallout.
The district used to produce 20 lakh pieces of chickens per month in the pre-pandemic times, but that has declined to 8 lakh pieces now.
As many as 2.25 crore to 3 crore pieces of chicks were produced per week in the pre pandemic times. In the face of a declining demand, the production now stands at only 1.35 crore pieces per week.
The Feed Industries Association Bangladesh (FIAB) said the demand for poultry feeds also dropped by 30% during the pandemic as many farms closed.
Feed producers manufactured 65.67 lakh tonnes of animal feed in the 2019-20 fiscal year as the poultry sector consumed 63% of the total production.
"The growth figures of the livestock services department cannot be genuine. The report does not reflect the reality," Ihtesham B Shahjahan, president of the association, told TBS.
"In the face of recurring losses, many farm owners have been looking for buyers. But this would not happen if the poultry production was so vibrant," he noted.
Apart from egg and poultry meat, the DLS report claimed milk production in the country has also increased.
Milk production last year rose to 119.85 lakh tonnes from previous year's 106.80 lakh tonnes.
According to the latest report, each person in Bangladesh consumed 193.38 millilitre of milk a day last year as the FAO per day consumption mark is at least 250 millilitre.
Zeenat Sultana, deputy director (farm) at the DLS, told TBS that poultry and milk productions did not get hampered though many farms shuttered due to the pandemic.
"Because there was no shortage of fish, meat and milk during the pandemic-led shutdown," she argued.
According to the DLS, there were 90,000 registered poultry farms in Bangladesh as the unofficial count suggests the number was more than 1 lakh.
Zeenat Sultana said they collect upazila and union level production data by their staff every month. "There is a specific form for data collection, and our staffers send those regularly."
Dr Debashis Das, director (Extension) at the DLS, said, "It is true that some farms shut in the face of virus fallout, but the remaining large-scale farms have extensive production capacity. Therefore, our data is cent percent accurate."
He claimed improved livestock and poultry varieties have been used for milk, egg and meat production, and those played a crucial role to the production growth.