The price of egg is nose-diving worrying poultry farmers in Sarpang.
A tray (30nos) of egg that used to fetch Nu 300 to Nu 350 until recently is currently sold at Nu 200 in Gelephu.
The drop in the price is attributed to the excess supply of day old chicks (DOC) leading to overproduction of eggs in the market.
Chairman with the Sarpang layer cooperative, Nima Lama, said that the widespread distribution of DOC from the national poultry development centre (NPDC) has enabled individuals and groups to produce eggs in excess that has influenced the market price.
During the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the centre distributed 183,773 DOC across the country of which 110,828 DOC were distributed in Sarpang.
From July last year until last month, the centre distributed 138,555 DOC in Sarpang. NPDC officials said that the current surplus eggs in the market could be following excess supply made during the months of October to December (second quarter) last year.
The centre supplied 76,350 DOC in the second quarter compared to 64,580 DOC in the first quarter (July-September) in the current fiscal year.
However, officials said that the centre does not randomly supply chicks. Distribution depends on the demand made by the farmers and also on the availability of parent breeder-stock. It was learnt that last year the demand for DOC stood at more than 500,000 across the country.
Annually, the centre imports 7,500 parent breeders from Australia at USD 11.3 per bird. The DOCs are sold to farmers at a subsidised rate of Nu 30 per chick.
Besides the growing distribution of DOCs, Nima Lama claims that infiltration of eggs from across the border has also contributed to the reduction of local egg prices in the country.
“We suspect that there is a black market for eggs in the country,” he said. “Our sources in Phuentsholing said there are Bhutanese importing eggs through brokers who function from the outskirts of the Indian town of Jaigoan.”
The chairman said that similar practices are also suspected in Gelephu. “Although we do not have evidences to prove this, we are suspicious of a few people here. We have put in our own people to collect evidences to authenticate our doubts, which we think is very certain,” he said, adding that some of the bakeries in Gelephu hardly purchase local eggs. “This could only mean that they have other sources that provides them eggs at a much cheaper rate.”
The eggs produced outside Gelephu (India) are usually white in colour. However, Kuensel learnt that there are brown eggs, similar to those that are produced in Bhutan, entering the country illegally from the bordering towns like Jaigoan.
Sources say that eggs entering Phuentsholing carry supporting documents with them but it is suspected that transporters top-up Indian (brown) eggs enroute.
Some of the farmers in Sarpang said that illegal brown eggs are imported from Nepal and are widely sold in the bordering towns like Jaigoan.
Last month a meeting was held to discuss the issues faced by the poultry farmers in the dzongkhag. Following the meeting, a circular was issued by the dzongkhag administration to relevant stakeholders on April 29 to monitor the illegal entry of eggs from across the border.
The circular stated that all livestock officials in the dzongkhag would have to certify the origin of fresh eggs. “Gewog livestock officials will issue certificate of origin for the eggs that are legibly produced in the gewog,” it states. “Hereafter, all fresh egg vendors and retailers have to produce certificate of origin whenever and wherever demanded by concerned authorities.”
The circular further states that fresh eggs that are being transported or sold without accompanying certificate of origin will be discarded without compensation.
Nima Lama said that another reason for the drop in the egg price is due to competition offered by state owned enterprise, Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation Ltd (BLDCL) in Samrang, Samdrupjongkhar and Relangthang in Sarpang.
He said that the corporation that was initially established to help farmers add value to their egg production is competing with farmers today. “The former Prime Minster told me that the eggs produced by BLDCL would be supplied to the central schools, but our cooperative is supplying the eggs to schools in Sarpang while the BLDCL is busy selling their produce in the market.”
With the price of feed drastically shooting and the eggs dropping, Nima Lama said farmers are at a loss. “Most of the poultry farmers would have to soon close their farms if the situation does not improve.”
Meanwhile, a poultry farmer in Jigmechholing, Sarpang, Sonam Zangpo, is worried with the business he recently took up after returning to his village. As a young entrepreneur, he left his job in the tourism sector.
He said that with the growing feed price and tumbling egg value, many aspiring entrepreneurs would be deterred to take up farming.
Another poultry farmer in Gakiling gewog, Karma Tshering Namda is functioning below the capacity of his mega-farm.
He said that he had sold more than half of his layers (chicken) since the amount generated from selling the eggs did not meet the cost of feed he spent on the chickens.
Nima Lama said that the feed price increased twice in the last three months. “The feed price is up by Nu 150 today and it is difficult for farmers to continue at this rate when the egg price is dropping.”
Of the 207 poultry farms in Sarpang, the highest in the country, the dzongkhag has 140 layer (egg producing) farms.
Younten Tshedup | Sarpang