With the closure of the border, ban of meat import and shortage of feeds, the price of eggs has gone up in the midst of COVID-19. A month ago, one could buy a tray of eggs for Nu 200 at the Centenary Farmers’ Market in Thimphu. A tray of eggs now costs Nu 420.
The Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor that the ministry has not received any official complaints regarding the egg price hike.
“In some cases, without any complaints, the buyers buy at the offered price. For the ministry, we will always prefer our farmers to get the maximum price that they can fetch. And in some cases, they act according to the demand, some they give order and they hike the price as per the demand. Until and unless we receive official complaints, we cannot respond,” said Lyonpo. He said the price of egg is high because of the meat ban in Saga Dawa and due to the COVID-19 situation as the bird feed import is difficult.
“We need continuous supply of day old chicken that will grow up and lay eggs and for the day old chicken we need mother stock, and we do not have the production of mother stock in the country. We normally import mother stock from New Zealand, Australia and India and because of the pandemic, we are not able to import so the number of day old chicken will reduce, which means the egg laying hens will reduce and quantity of egg can reduce that can lead to increase in the price. Whatever is in our hands to manage, we are trying our best, but whatever it is out of our hands, we can’t help,” Lyonpo said.
Lyonpo added that the ministry has invited any interested entrepreneurs for feed production. However, no one is coming forward despite the invitation, as the production is labor intensive.
There are only two private companies that are providing the feeds in the country but they are also importing and re-packaging it.
“We have Karma Feed and another in Sarpang who is providing the feeds. We are totally dependent on the import so we need to promote local production of feeds in the country. We have the raw materials in the country, and we just have to import some nutrient ingredients and then we can start the production in the country so that we do not have to face the difficulties in such cases,” Lyonpo added.
Lyonpo said that there is no meat in the market, so for any special occasion people are going for eggs and also for the people in quarantine to provide nutrition food, the egg demand has gone up.
“Let’s see what happens as the local meat production has been released, and also we have allowed the import of processed and frozen meat. When there is supply of meat in the market hopefully there will be some demand deduction for eggs which will obviously reduce the price of the eggs,” Lyonpo said.
Deputy Chief of Animal Health Division under Department of Livestock, Dr Karma Wangdi, said that due to the lockdown in India and other countries, the parent stock cannot be imported and an egg producing layer chicken must have converted to broiler and sold, which are not even fully grown.
“For egg production, the parent stock is being imported from other countries. With the current situation, all the flights have stopped lifting, and we cannot bring in and production cannot take place since the production ends within six to four weeks, and the new ones should be imported. If we visit the dzongkhags, most of the egg farms are empty,” he said.
He said that the current pandemic might have hampered the overall production of eggs and led to to the increase in the egg price.
“If we look at the past trends, Bhutan has achieved a remarkable target in terms of egg production. We have achieved almost 100 percent self-sufficiency when it comes to egg,’ he said.
Chairman of Tsirang Poultry Farm, Dewan Pradhan, said that the egg production has decreased and the price of eggs has increased from the source itself. He said that a carton full of eggs costs around Nu 2,600 and a tray of eggs costs around Nu 370.
“We are facing the shortage of production, and due to a limited supply and higher than usual demand, our suppliers have increased the egg price. The cost of eggs in Thimphu must be higher than here in Tsirang as the transportation charges are also included,” he said.