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In an unusual occurence, egg prices surged 25 per cent over the past one month but that of broiler chicken was 30 per cent down since October.
Data compiled by online agency Poultry Bazaar showed the average egg price in the benchmark Hyderabad wholesale market at Rs 4.54 apiece, from Rs 3.79 in October. In Pune, it was Rs 4.98, up from Rs 4.15. Retail prices were around Rs 6 each, an all-time high.
In contrast, broiler chicken sold at Rs 101 a kg (average) in the wholesale Punjab markets on Friday, compared to Rs 132 a kg last month. In the Pune and Nashik markets, it was quoted at Rs 62 a kg, from Rs 70 a kg last month.
"Eggs are in short supply today due to lower production. The supply deficit is likely to continue for a few more months and the price would remain firm till February or March. In the case of chicken, poultry farms are sitting on huge inventory; backlog stocks are likely to be exhausted in two to three weeks. So, chicken prices would start moving firm in December," said Balram Yadav, managing director, Godrej Agrovet.
Independent poultry farms have been incurring losses due to subdued prices over three or four years. Large corporate groups have, however, entered the industry and changed the dynamics in their deep pockets. As a result, many small and medium poultry farms that had emerged over the past four or five years have shut or reduced their capacity drastically.
Consequently, production of eggs has remained low, although demand normally increases during winter. According to Yadav, eggs prices might move up further by Re 0.5-1 apiece in the retail markets and by Re 0.25-0.5 in wholesale markets. "Any increase beyond this level would have consumers reducing their buying," he added.
"Another factor which contributed to the sharp spike in egg prices is its higher shelf life than chicken. During the past three-four years, many independent poultry farms reduced their production, resulting in reduced supply of eggs. However, with chicken prices estimated to move firm in the next few weeks, the margins of poultry farms are expected to get better," said K G Anand, general manager, Venkateshwara Hatcheries.
Many consumers in the south avoid chicken consumption during the Karthik month (starting around the third week of October). They, however, resume consumption towards the end of November.