Egg, an affordable – and for some the only – source of animal protein for people living below the poverty line, is spiralling out of the people’s reach as rising production costs push up the prices.
The World Health Organization recommends consuming 104 eggs a year for an adult person. Since 1996 World Egg Day has been celebrated every year on the second Friday in October.
Currently, a dozen eggs cost Tk 120-135 in the retail market and stakeholders say the prices will likely go up further in the future.
Before the pandemic, an estimated 20 per cent people lived below the poverty line in Bangladesh but various researches indicate that the percentage has increased since the virus outbreak.
“We eat meat once a year and can afford fish several times but we eat eggs two or three days a week,” said Nasima Akter, 25, a housewife from Gaibandha who recently gave birth to a baby.
Eggs are the only protein source of families like Nasima due to their low prices and availability. Her family also eats loose salt which does not contain Iodine. Eggs are also the iodine source for her family.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, an egg contains 12-13 gram protein and 49 microgram iodine, over 90 nutrition elements including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, zinc, beta carotene, alpha-carotene, vitamin A, B-6, B-12, an D.
Prices rise despite surplus supply
Egg production has increased more than threefold in a decade, with the supply overtaking demand.
In the last 10 years, the demand for eggs increased by 226.72 crore pieces while the supply rose by 1,449.79 crore, according to the Department of Livestock Services.
In 2010-11, the country produced 607.85 crore pieces of eggs against a demand of 1,539.20 crore. In 2020-21, the country produced 2,057.64 crore eggs against a demand of 1,756.92 crore.
Bangladesh currently has 291.72 crore pieces surplus after meeting local demand.
Farmers and government officials said an increase in poultry feed price has pushed up egg prices.
Around 70 per cent of expenses go to feed. The other 30 per cent include one-day-old chicken hatchling, labour, water, electricity, medicine, supplement and additional expenditure.
“The price of per kg layer poultry feed was Tk 34 in February this year but now it costs Tk 43-44,” said Khondoker Mohsin, owner of United Agro Complex in Gazipur. He currently has 57,000 layer chickens at his farm.
On average, farmers need 2.150 kg feed for 15.5 pieces of egg. Adding the other 30 per cent cost pushes up the production cost to Tk 7.10.
“If we consider current feed prices, the production cost of per piece egg will stand at more than Tk 8. We cannot reduce egg prices unless feed prices fall,” said Mohsin, also the joint secretary of Bangladesh Poultry Industries Association.
Why are feed prices high?
Bangladesh’s annual demand for animal feed is more than 65 lakh tonnes. Sixty per cent of the feed (44 lakh tonnes) is produced commercially, while farmers produce the rest. Of the commercial production, over 23 lakh tonnes is poultry feed.
Feed producers said the increasing raw materials prices pushed up the cost. Layer poultry feed consist of 55-60 per cent maize, 25-30 per cent soybean, 9 per cent limestone and 5-9 per cent rice bran.
On average, a kg maize was Tk 21-22 at the beginning of this year. Now, they cost Tk 30-32 because the locally-produced maize has already been used, forcing the feed industry to use imported maize.
The country produced 56.63 lakh tonnes of maize in 2020-21 which is 2.61 lakh tonnes more than the previous year. Only 1.35 lakh tonnes of soybean was produced in the last fiscal year.
A kg soybean cake cost Tk 32-33 but now the price has soared to Tk 51-52, while rice bran’s average price has increased to Tk 30-31 from Tk 17.
“Feed production cost increased by 34 per cent in recent times due to price hike of raw materials. The livestock sector will collapse if we increased the feed prices by 34 per cent.
So, we hiked the price but kept it at a tolerable level,” Md Ihtesham B Shahjahan, managing director of Quality Feed Limited, told The BusinessPost.
Ihtesham, also the president of The Feed Industries Association of Bangladesh, said the oil mill owners export soybean cakes to India. “They are taking advantage of the zero import tax and pushing the livestock sector into danger,” he said.