Lhakpa Quendren | Gelephu

The establishment of commercial poultry farms in Sarpang witnessed a significant decline over the years, indicating a challenging period for local poultry farmers. This downward trend has sparked concerns about the long-term sustainability of the industry.

According to records from the Sarpang dzongkhag livestock sector, the number of poultry farms has decreased from 170 to 110 over the years, and the chicken population dropped from 190,000 to 100,000. Currently, there are only 110 commercial poultry farms in Sarpang.

Factors such as rising feed prices and lack of feed subsidies have contributed to the decline. The impact of suspected tainted feeds last year has also taken a toll on some poultry farmers.

Tshendu, the assistant dzongkhag livestock officer of Sarpang Dzongkhag Administration, said that the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war have also led to an increase in feed prices, making it difficult for farmers to fetch favourable prices for their eggs.

In response to these challenges, he acknowledged the need to invest in feed subsidies. “We are proposing to the government for feed subsidies to support poultry farmers, but we also need to consider the country’s economic situation.”

The shortage of bird supply has also led to some farmers being unable to continue their operations. The lack of available birds posed significant challenges for these farmers, preventing them from sustaining their poultry businesses.

In a positive news for the industry, Tshendu said, the National Poultry Development Centre in Sarpang would resume supplying birds by July. “The farm had temporarily halted operations since 2022 due to quality concerns. However, to replenish the stocks, parent birds will need to be imported from India.”

Not only in Sarpang, poultry farmers in Paro and Bumthang also facing similar challenges, leading to the abandonment of their businesses. This has resulted in a shortage of eggs and soaring prices in the Thimphu market. However, poultry farmers linked the increase in egg prices to the high cost of feed.

Karma Feeds’ director, Chencho Wangyal, said that the increase in feed prices is due to the high prices of key raw materials like maize and soya. “Whenever there is a decrease in the price of these feed materials, it also leads to a decline in the price of feed. We keep the very minimal profit for staff salaries and loan repayments.”

Highlighting challenges in accessing raw materials within the country, he said, there is a need for the government to encourage and support local maize production. “About 50 percent of the daily feed raw materials consist of maize, which is currently imported from Behar and Assam. Each day, three to four truckloads, equivalent to 50 metric tons, of maize are added to meet the feed requirements.”

“Encouraging farmers to produce sufficient maize domestically would eliminate the need for raw material imports, which incurs significant investment and additional costs,” Chencho said, adding that local production could positively impact the profitability of poultry farms by stabilising feed prices and minimizing investment in imports.