No control over egg market

Eggs in the wholesale market in Lalbazar of Sylhet on 22 August, 2023.Anis Mahmud

Residents in Dhaka city are now shelling out Tk 50 to 55 for a hali -- four pieces -- of eggs, which used to cost only Tk 28 to 30 before the Covid outbreak in 2020.

The egg was once an affordable source of animal protein, but has now become increasingly inaccessible for low income people. Its exorbitant price is not a fleeting issue, rather it has been persisting for months.

The fish and meat markets have also been showing a similar trend of price. In the aftermath, the low and middle-income groups are struggling to meet basic protein requirements.

Small and medium-scale farmers said they have no role in determining egg prices. Rather, a syndicate has emerged in the market, who enjoy the sole control over pricing.

Addressing the media on 13 August, commerce minister Tipu Munshi warned that if the egg prices do not come under control, the authorities, in collaboration with the fisheries and livestock ministry, would permit egg imports.

In contrast, fisheries and livestock minister SM Rezaul Karim said on the same day that it will not require importing eggs if domestic production is effectively managed.

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In a subsequent development, the authorities launched extensive drives in kitchen markets, but it had only a marginal effect as prices dropped by a mere Tk 10 to 15 per dozen.

Now, a dozen eggs from farm-raised chickens sell for around Tk 150 to 155 in kitchen markets, while a hali costs Tk 55 in grocery shops.

However, egg prices are notably lower in India and Pakistan. Sharing a local price chart, Amar Saha, the West Bengal correspondent for Prothom Alo, said some 30 eggs cost INR 160 in West Bengal, translating to an egg price of INR 5.33 or Tk 7.50.

Khalilur Rahman, executive director of the Voluntary Consumers Training and Awareness Society (VOCTA), returned home from Chennai, India, on Thursday. He said six eggs used to cost him INR 42 in India, while the price of a hali stands at Tk 37.

According to the Pakistan statistics bureau, a dozen eggs were priced at PKR 294 on 17 August, which converts to roughly Tk 9 per egg.

Even in crisis-hit Sri Lanka, egg prices remain notably lower than Bangladesh. According to their central bank website, an egg used to cost LKR 41 on 18 August, which stands a bit lower than Tk 14.

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Earlier, the price per dozen eggs used to remain at around Tk 100, but it has jumped to around Tk 150 since mid-2022.

Asked about efforts to control egg prices, minister SM Rezaul Karim told Prothom Alo over the phone that he was at an event in Australia and would talk about the issue later. However, there was no further response from his side.

Later, the Director General of the Department of Livestock Services, Emdadul Haque Talukder, declined to comment, stating that he was occupied at the time.