Chhimi Dema  

In the past one month, the price of a tray of eggs in Thimphu rose from Nu 320 to Nu 440, an  average increase of Nu 4 every day. An egg costs Nu 14.6.

Vendors said that the suppliers have hiked the price. “The suppliers increase the price weekly,” a vendor at the Centenary Farmers Market, Choney Zam said.

Officials from the Department of Livestock said that the delay in import of parent stock–to produce the layer and broilers, and vendors hoarding eggs were the reasons for the short supply of eggs in the market causing the price rise.

An official said that since eggs have a longer shelf life, vendors were buying and storing to market when there is a short supply of eggs.

“Some vendors hoard the eggs to make a profit when the demand spikes,” the official said.

Another reason, the official said, for the short supply of eggs was the delay in importing parent stock. Bhutan imports parent stock from Australia and New Zealand.

“There were travel restrictions while importing the parent stock,” the official said, adding that the import of the first batch of parent stock was almost delayed by four to five months in the production cycle.

Only in August last year, the first batch of parent stock arrived. It takes another five to six months for those parent stocks to reach the maturity level. And only in February, the parent stock can hatch eggs. It takes 21 days for the egg to become day-old-chicks (DOC). The DOCs are then supplied to the farmers.

“The DOCs that we have supplied to the farmers are still at the growing stage which means that they are about 14 to 15 weeks old,” the official said.

The chicken can lay eggs when they are around 16 to 18 weeks. “In one or two months, there would not be a massive shortage of eggs in the market,” the official said.

According to the Livestock Statistics 2020, there were 734,451 layers in 800 poultry farms in the country that laid 169.2 million eggs last year.

The official said that Tsirang and Sarpang dzongkhags were impacted by the delay in import of parent stock. The department imported a batch of parent breeders and supplied DOCs to the eastern dzongkhags.

Sarpang dzongkhag has the most hatcheries in the country and imports parent stock after every 21 weeks. Paro and Limithang, Mongar import only twice a year.

Officials said that there is no parent stock supplier in the Asia region and that it was not feasible to establish a parent stock farm in the country considering the small Bhutanese market.

Meanwhile, the poultry farmers in Tsirang said that the existing layers have become old and cannot lay more.

The owner of Nugoo Farmer’s Product, San Man Subba said that he had applied for replacements in October last year. He did not get a response to date. “I am hoping that I will be able to get layers by October.”

He had 5,000 layers which dropped by 1,000 in the last few months.

Due to DOCs shortage, his farm could produce only three cartons of eggs daily. He sells a carton at Nu 2,100. In the past, a carton cost a maximum of Nu 2,000.

To reduce market price, he said that farmers should be provided DOCs at the earliest. “If not, the price will continue to soar.”

He buys his DOCs from a dealer in Sarpang, who imports them from India.

The farmers, however, are pinning their hopes on Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation Limited who signed an agreement with contract farmers.

A poultry farmer in Gosarling, Birkha Bahadur said that many farmers have abandoned their poultry farms since it was difficult to obtain inputs like DOCs. “The production has decreased and people are no longer interested.”

The demand, however, has increased, he said. He has 1,500 layers on his farm and sells a carton of eggs at Nu 2,800.

Tsirang has 140 layer farms with over 100,000 birds. Of it, 64 are registered members of Tsirang Poultry Cooperative.

The situation is no different in Dagana.

A poultry farmer Jit Bahadur Tamang who supplies eggs in schools said that the price of an egg has increased from Nu 9.5 to Nu 11.5. He said that despite the price hike, the demand has increased.

In the school feeding programme, children are given two eggs in a week. With a shortage, Jit Bahadur said that it would become impossible to feed eggs to school children in the future. He charges Nu 2,500 a carton of eggs.

Another farmer, Deo Bahdhur Ghalley said that there was a severe shortage even in the local market and meeting the demand from places like Thimphu is challenging for them.

Meanwhile, a poultry farmer, Nima Lama from Shompangkha said that the dzongkhag and the country experienced a similar shortage of eggs around this time every year for the past four years.

“We came to know about this situation in 2017. So we planned our requisition of DOCs and placed them with the livestock sector and National Poultry Research and Development Centre. But, this was overlooked and we are facing the acute shortage now,” he said.

Nima Lama added that over 15 farms of Sarpang Layer Cooperative, one of the largest producers in Sarpang, are empty. “We need 95,000 DOCs a year but we received around 8,500,” he said.

The farmers also said that the quality of feed could also have reduced production.

Additional reporting by 

Choki Wangmo and Nima 

Edited by Tshering Palden