… they say transhipment increases costs, seek escort service for transport

Nima | Gelephu

Poultry farmers in Sarpang have revived almost by 50 percent of egg production and say that market is already becoming an issue.

Reaching eggs to Thimphu is restricted during lockdown. Sarpang layer cooperative (SLC), the largest poultry farmers’ group in the dzongkhag, could not collect eggs from farmers for more than 10 days. The cooperative collected more than 200 cartoons of eggs. 

The chairman of SLC, TP Homagain said that the problem was situational as the government decided to import eggs after contaminated feed caused egg shortages in the country.

He said that the arrival of imported eggs coincided with farms regaining pace of production.

“The main problem is while transporting eggs to Thimphu. Transhipment is risky because a small mistake would cause huge damage,” TP Homagain said.

He said allowing the cooperative to drop eggs to Thimphu with escort support and strict Covid-19 safety measures would help the farmers. “There is no other means. The lockdown is for our safety.”

With various restrictions and safety measures in place, it was difficult for the cooperative to collect eggs from farmers in the dzongkhag. The chairman estimates that there could be over 1,000 cartons of eggs in stock with the cooperative members.  

Officials from the dzongkhag livestock sector said Sarpang supplied close to 2,000 cartons of eggs to Thimphu and more than 300 cartons within the gewogs during the lockdown this year. The eggs were from non-cooperative members.

Another 2,000 cartons of eggs from both cooperative and non-cooperative members would be supplied to Thimphu on Monday. The dzongkhag has been helping farmers sell their eggs since the lockdown.

Dzongkhag livestock officer, Dorji Wangchuk said eggs were imported after the feed problems affected production in poultry farms.

“Almost 60 percent of poultry farms were affected because of the feed. Only 50 percent regained production. Once the full production begins, the government would stop the import,” he said.

It’s expected to take another two months to restore the 100 percent egg production in Sarpang, according to the official.

“Eggs were imported mainly for the dzongkhags without sufficient egg supply. The eggs were imported as an interim measure to fill the production vacuum,” said Dorji Wangchuk.

The price 

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forest authorised Bhutan Livestock Development Corporation Limited (BLDC) to import eggs as an interim measure to solve the shortage.

The first consignment reached the country on February 5.

Dorji Wangchuk said that the country was declared egg sufficient but it was important to consider if it was affordable. “Local eggs price was too high. The cost of production per egg is Nu 8.5. The price in the market is higher,” he said.

The dzongkhag would be transporting eggs to Thimphu in a driver-switching mode from Darachhu starting Monday. The transhipment mode increased the transportation cost of the earlier consignments. 

Local eggs are sold at Nu 2,450 per carton from BLDC outlets in Thimphu today; down from Nu 2,700 per carton after the imported eggs hit the market this month.

The import price is Nu 295 per tray in Phuentsholing and Nu 305 in other dzongkhags. The retail price is Nu 310 in Phuentsholing and Nu 320 in other dzongkhags.

The farmgate price for local eggs ranges from Nu 2,450 to Nu 2,550 a cartoon: Nu 350 to Nu 360 per tray, according to farmers. The market price for a tray of eggs is Nu 450 in Gelephu today.

Poultry farmer from Shompangkha, Nima Lama said, that the farmers did not charge more than Nu 370 per tray. “We can sell it at Nu 350 at the minimum, considering the cost of production. It was not farmers who charged Nu 800 per tray for eggs,” he said.

He added that a farmer has to feed layer birds for five to six months until the production starts.

“A farm with 1,000 birds will have to buy feeds worth Nu 600,000. Everyone’s alleging farmers. It’s the middleman and the supply system that increased the egg price. The cost per egg comes to Nu 10 per egg approximately,” said Nima Lama.

He said that import of eggs was focused only to control the egg price. “The increase in feed price is unregulated. We can control the egg price if we come together. There is no proper system in place,” he said.

A farmer from Dekiling said the highest price farmers fetched was Nu 2,800 a carton so far. “I don’t know how the price reached Nu 600 per tray in Thimphu,” he said.