The demand for eggs, which had fallen during January-February due to the bird flu outbreak, has bounced back with rise in consumption of key poultry commodity to boost immunity amid the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to government officials and industry experts.
But farm gate rates have not gone up commensurate to rise in input cost, affecting farmers, they said.
Egg is among the protein-rich foods prescribed for COVID-19 patients and is the cheapest source of protein available to people, experts said.
"There is a trend in increase in consumption of eggs in the last few months. Egg has the highest 11 per cent protein content," O P Chaudhary, Joint Secretary in the Animal Husbandry, Poultry and Dairy Ministry, told PTI.
Another official in the ministry said it is difficult to estimate a monthly rise in egg consumption.
Indian Broiler Group Managing Director Gulrej Alam said the poultry industry was impacted badly during April-May 2020 last year due to the lockdown as demand for both eggs and chicken declined.
However, he said demand revived between June and December last year.
Alam said the demand got again impacted in January-February this year due to bird flu outbreak. In June 2020, monthly consumption stood at average 7 eggs per person, which fell to 4 eggs per person due to bird flu scare.
"After March, the demand has bounced back to average 7 eggs per person as demand for eggs as immunity booster caught the minds of people during the second wave of the pandemic," he said.
The demand for eggs is more in urban areas when compared with rural areas. When the urban demand rises, prices automatically go up, said Praveen Garg, Zonal Chairman at National Egg Coordination Committee.
"Egg is still the cheapest source of protein today. At a retail price of Rs 7 per egg, you are getting 11 per cent protein. In no other source of protein, you will get this much protein at just Rs 7. Therefore, there is good demand for egg," said Prasanna Pedgaonkar, general manager of poultry-focused Venky's.
The supply of eggs is tight as poultry farms are not operating at their full capacity in many parts of the country after bird flu early this year, covid-induced restrictions and other reasons like rising feed cost, he added.
As per the government data, India's egg production rose to 140 billion in 2019-20 from 103 billion in 2018-19. And 98 per cent of the eggs produced is consumed in the country itself.
Gurugram-based startup Eggoz cofounder Abhishek Negi said: "We have seen huge surge in demand for branded and Eggoz eggs in the past few months since the onset of second wave of covid pandemic."
Eggoz branded business has grown by more than 100 per cent month-on-month over the past few months, he said.
"Customers are becoming increasingly aware of health and immunity boosting benefits of eggs," Negi said.
He informed that Eggoz has launched an enriched variant called Nutraplus where two eggs can fulfill daily recommended intake of Vitamin D and B12 among other vitamins.
"An egg that used to fetch around Rs 3-3.5/piece for the farmers in the months of April, May in Haryana touched all time high of Rs 5.5 and is now trailing at Rs 4.8/piece," Negi said.
This has provided much-needed financial boost to layer farmers in the country and will help them meet their higher cost of production due to increased prices of soya, Negi said.
Unpackaged eggs in retail are currently being sold at around 7-8 per piece in untraceable format which has increased from normal Rs 5-6 per piece, he said.
Branded eggs are sold at higher rates, around Rs 10 and above.
Eggoz has its own poultry farm in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. It also has tie ups with other poultry farms for procurement of eggs.
Source: BUSINESS STANDARD