Eggspensive: Poultry prices up after farmers’ foul play

Kathmandu, December 26

The government has remained a mute spectator to recent incidents in the poultry industry that involved a 10-day campaign of hatcheries destroying six million chicks and poultry entrepreneurs arbitrarily hiking the price of chicken and eggs in the domestic market.

Citing the growing loss amid surplus production, hatcheries across the country stopped production of chicks for 10 days till Tuesday. Two days later, poultry entrepreneurs raised chicken price by Rs 15 per kg to Rs 285 a kg. With this, chicken price has been raised by Rs 35 per kg over a one-week period. Similarly, price of eggs has been raised by Rs 15 per case to Rs 290 with effect from today.

In a bid to pressure the government to raise the price of chicks, hatcheries across the country stopped producing chicks for 10 days and apparently destroyed eggs that were ready to hatch. As entrepreneurs involved in the hatchery business claim that the country produces almost four million chicks every week, they believe that almost six million chicks were destroyed from hatching in the 10-day strike that started on December 14.

As those involved in hatchery business and poultry are almost the same entrepreneurs, they first destroyed the soon-to-hatch eggs and then raised prices of both chicken and eggs in the market, while the government remained a mere spectator.

As Nepal is self-sustaining in chicken and does not import the produce, a few big poultry entrepreneurs are trying to leverage their influence and create a monopoly in the market through support from a few government officials, charges consumer rights activist Jyoti Baniya.

“Poultry and hatchery entrepreneurs destroying their own assets in the name of growing loss was to create more assets,” said Baniya, adding that the government’s failure to intervene in such unlawful activities will make the market unhealthy and hit consumers badly.

However, hatchery entrepreneurs defend their move, saying they were compelled to destroy chicks as they had to incur huge loss following surplus production in recent months. “The country produces over four million chicks every week, while its demand is less than three million per week. While the production cost of one chick is almost Rs 50, the market price is almost Rs 20,” argued Rishi Ram Poudel, central senior vice-president of Nepal Hatchery Industry Association, adding that the government should allow new hatchery firms based on market demand and fix chick production quota for each hatchery.

There are more than 200 hatcheries in Nepal and over 120 are based in Chitwan district alone.

However, government officials ‘shamelessly’ say that it was the right of poultry and hatchery entrepreneurs to destroy their assets. “Though we knew about hatcheries destroying chicks, we could do nothing as they had the right to their property. We can intervene only if their activities affect price of chicken and eggs in the market, which it has now,” said Banshi Sharma, director general at the Department of Livestock Service, adding that the department will coordinate with other government agencies and start monitoring the market from tomorrow.

“All those involved in raising prices arbitrarily will be booked,” he added.

Meanwhile, Pradeep Chandra Bhattarai, deputy spokesperson at the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, said the government would initiate action as poultry and hatchery entrepreneurs could not raise prices without valid scientific reason. “They have incurred loss due to unhealthy competition that they practised on their own. This should not affect prices of chicken and eggs,” he said.

Chicken, egg cost an arm and a leg

  • A case of eggs priced at Rs 290
  • Chicken price raised Rs 35/kg in a week