Egg prices have increased recently and to an extent that at the current retail rates of more than Rs 7 per piece, a person can buy broiler chicken instead. Poultry farmers around Pune are selling eggs at Rs 585 for every 100 pieces, which is approximately Rs 6.5-7.5 a piece. This means Rs 120-135 in per kg terms, taking an average egg weight of about 55 grams. This price is far higher than the retail price of chicken in Pune now. Past six months, farm-gate prices of eggs in Pune and adjacent areas have increased from Rs 375 to Rs 585 per 100 pieces, even as the rates for broiler birds have crashed from Rs 90 to under Rs 60 per kg.
A Tamil Nadu based egg products manufacturer told The Indian Express that egg prices usually rise at this time due to winter demand, while broiler rates fall because supply goes up, with the birds taking less time to reach slaughter weight. But this kind of price spiral in eggs have never been seen before.
Raju Bhosale, executive member of the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), attributed the jump in prices to an estimated 15 percent increase in demand. This increase in demand is actually driven by vegetable prices, which he claimed is called substitution effect. These days onions and tomatoes are retailing at Rs 40-50 per kg, while ranging even higher at Rs 60-100 for cabbage, cauliflower and brinjal. When vegetables turn costly, people switch to eggs, pushing up its rates as well.
Some details provided by NECC also reveal that about 2.88 crore eggs were produced every day in Namakkal zone of Tamil Nadu during the month of July this year, which fell to 2.87 crore in August, 2.84 crore in September and 2.81 crore in October. The intense cold wave in northern parts of the country has resulted in steep fall in egg production and also increased egg consumption that in turn also scaled up the price of Namakkal egg.
According to egg products manufacturer from Erode, the broiler production cycle is much shorter. A day-old chick weighing 40 g or so takes just 40-42 days to attain a live bird weight of 2-2.5 kg, when it is ready to be sold for slaughter. That time is even lower, 37-38 days, during winter. But when it comes to egg-laying birds, minimum time needed for the chicks to grow for production to start is 18 weeks. A bird takes 72 weeks to roughly lay 330 eggs. During the peak production period from around 27 to 40 weeks, the bird will lay an egg every 26-27 hours, going up to 32-33 hours at the end of 72 weeks. The manufacturer further explained that when egg prices are goods, farmers may maintain the birds till 90 weeks, even if laying happens only once in 35-36 hours. However, this time, since egg rates were very low till July, with broiler realisations somewhat better, many layer farmers went in for early culling. It has impacted supplies now, just when demand is rising.