There is good news and bad news in the egg business.
The good news is egg, an indispensable part of our diet, is becoming cheaper. From Nu 350 a tray (30 eggs), it has come down to Nu 220 in Thimphu. Given that egg is a good source of protein, mineral and vitamins, not to mention its versatility as a cooking ingredient, egg should be affordable.
The bad news is that those in the business are affected, as there is more supply than demand. The cost of production has not changed.
While it is basic economics of demand and supply, there are certain issues that could be looked into. Egg is one food item that we are proud to be self-sufficient in. It is not controversial unlike meat, whose production idea we killed even before it was born. We are even exporting eggs.
The poultry business has picked up all over the country. It has created jobs, changed lives of farmers and killed the import of the white-shelled eggs many grew up eating.
The drop in the price could be the solution to the confused initiative of three eggs a week in schools. Notwithstanding the confusion around the initiative, the abundance of eggs can come to supplement the nutrition deficiency problem in schools.
Schools are getting into poultry as a part of their learning programme. Sixty four schools with poultry farm produced 1.5 million eggs in about 10 months last year. More are taking up poultry.
One thing we need not import now is egg. Seen as a source of many good things, the government had invested and encouraged thousands of people to take up poultry farming. The national poultry development centre has distributed day-old chicks – the egg producers- to the extent that there is one for everyone in the country.
There is demand and the government is heavily subsidising the cost of the chicks. If it is bringing down the cost of eggs, it should be welcomed. Poultry farmers cannot complain just because it is eating into their profit. They are finding sides on the egg.
However, if Bhutanese businessmen or middlemen are importing eggs, it is a serious concern. There are regulations to authenticate locally produced eggs, but our people are known for the many tricks up their sleeves to hoodwink or cheat authorities. When money is the main motive, they will explore every loophole in regulations to cheat.
This is bad for the poultry farmers and the economy. We will not be able to stop import of goods and services, but the ban on import of egg is still on. It is safer and more delicious to consume eggs produced locally. When we are exploring markets outside the country, with quality and safety as our edge, why encourage black market?
Authorities should clamp down on those in the business, if it is proven. Those in the egg business, the poultry owners and distributors should not expect the authorities to do the job. They should help authorities.