Poultry: The agriculture ministry is going to send more consignments of eggs to Kolkata after it sold the first consignment fetching good prices.

The first batch of local eggs exported to Kolkata on a trial basis fetched Nu 8 an egg, which is Nu 2 short of the best price for eggs in the city, agriculture minister Yeshey Dorji said.

The ministry exported 800 trays of eggs worth more than Nu 0.17 million in its first consignment to Kolkata, India last week.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the ministry is exploring more markets for the local eggs and negotiating to obtain a better price.

“In Kolkata the best price is Nu 10 an egg. The marketing officer at the Consulate office in Kolkata is working to fetch similar price for Bhutanese eggs,” Lyonpo said.

The egg price in Kolkata is fixed by a commission daily and it fluctuates every day. “This is going to be our challenge,” Lyonpo said.

Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay said poultry is one of the country’s most successful programmes. “However, to supply enough eggs to every individual we’ve to increase our production fourfold,” he said.

The sufficiency rate is calculated based on the required nutrition rate of the World Health Organisation of 200 grams a day.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji said the ministry would continue to supply pullets at a discount or for free to maintain the production rate. The ministry is also distributing three native hens and a rooster to each household for egg consumption across the country.

He said one of the challenges with the layer birds is that they have a fixed maximum egg laying period. After 83 weeks, the production of the layer hens fall and gradually they become spent birds.

“We’d this problem in 2013, when most of the layers became spent birds resulting in a huge drop in egg production,” Lyonpo said. “Our target is keeping 220 eggs a year, a bird.”

Egg consumption for every Bhutanese is 92 a year, which is on the higher side in the region. Switzerland has the highest per capita egg consumption of 200 eggs a year.

Health minister Tandin Wangchuk said eggs are a cheap substitute for green vegetables, which most may not have access to.

“For young women below 25, inadequate nutrition will lead to irreversible health conditions,” he said. “If not meat, they should at least eat eggs to obtain enough nutrition.”

The export initiative came after the local vendors faced problems selling their stock.

A tray of eggs today costs Nu 220 for large ones and Nu 150 for small ones. At one time the same amount of eggs costed Nu 400.

The country achieved self-sufficiency in eggs in 2012. Today the country’s 422,648 layer hens lay 251,678 eggs a day.

The two most egg-producing dzongkhags in the country are Sarpang and Tsirang,  and together produce 122,987 eggs a day. The country produced nearly 69 million eggs last year.

Tshering Palden