From Nu 1,650 a carton, the price of egg has increased to Nu 2,100 in the last two weeks.

While consumers and sellers blame farmers for increasing the price, farmers and cooperative groups say that it is the brokers who hike the egg price.

One of the main egg-supplying centres in Sarpang is Sarpang Layers Cooperative with about 84 members, of which 31 are active members who contribute regularly.

The members supply at least five cartons of egg a week. These members are from five gewogs of Sompangkha, Gelephu, Gakidling, Dekiling and Samtenling.

The cooperative’s chairman, Nima Lama, said that the cooperative is independent and tries to keep the egg price at the minimum.

He said that until recently, a carton of egg was bought at Nu 1,600 from farmers and it was sold to mobile agents after adding Nu 30 as cooperative commission and Nu 20 as transportation cost.

The cooperative has at least seven mobile agents who supply eggs to retailers in Thimphu, Paro, Trashigang, Wangdue, Punakha, Trongsa, and Bumthang. The agents buy eggs from cooperative at Nu 2,000 a carton but the brokers buy it from farmers at Nu 2,100. “It is the brokers that manipulate and fluctuate the price,” he said. “Farmers sell their produce to whoever offers a good price.”

Nima Lama also said that there are non-mobile agents (brokers) who bargain with poultry farmers and buy eggs directly from farmers offering Nu 100 more than the cooperative.

He said that an agreement has already been drawn between the agents and the cooperative that they would have to sell a carton of egg to a retailer with profit not more than Nu 150 a carton. “We can not keep track of what happens in the market.”

The chairman claimed that the cooperative waited for over a month after brokers hiked the price. It resulted in farmers withdrawing their membership from the cooperative to sell their eggs at a higher price to the brokers. At least 15 corporative members withdrew their membership.  “Some of them were even terminated for not sticking to the bylaws of the cooperative,” Nima Lama said.

A poultry farmer in Sompangkha, Mongal Singh Pulami, has been selling eggs to the cooperative since 2015. He sells five carton of egg to the cooperative weekly. He gives two cartons to a broker for Nu 2,000.

He said that giving eggs to cooperative is profitable for farmers because that is regular but brokers buy only when the price is high.

Mongal Singh said that when the egg price was Nu 900 a cartoon last July, the brokers were not willing to buy from him even when he offered a carton free with six cartons of eggs. “Now when the price is more than double, brokers visit us almost every day.”

One of the agents in Gelephu, Narayan Dhungyel, said it has been almost two weeks that he has not supplied eggs to Norbuling Central School.

He said that when the price increases, supply drops. “The price needs to be regulated before people start bringing in eggs from India,” he said.

Sarpang has more than 200 poultry farmers.

Nirmala Pokhrel | Tsirang