The exports of chicken and eggs from Sri Lanka, for which substantial investments have been pumped in by industry stakeholders, are expected to crumble in the near term as farmers are unable to even meet the high cost of production due to the recently imposed Maximum Retail Price (MRP).
All Island Poultry Association Chairman and Agronomist Ajith H. Gunasekera told Mirror Business yesterday that efforts taken by the industry to increase the export capacity of eggs are going in vain due to the poorly thought-out decision.
At present, key markets for Sri Lankan eggs are the Maldives, Oman, and Seychelles.
In 2021, egg exports to Oman totalled US$ 149,000, whereas to the Maldives exports totalled US$ 134,000. Efforts were underway to increase export quantities by expanding capacity, said Gunasekera.
The produce from the island has demand from across the world as today there have been no incidents of bird flu in the country.
Sri Lanka benefited from India’s decision to halt exports of eggs due to the food insecurity situation it is facing. Also, according to Gunasekera, Sri Lankan eggs are preferred over Indian ones due to their higher weight per egg.
The average weight per egg exported by Sri Lanka is 55g whereas eggs exported from India have an average weight of 35g.
Despite the potential, Sri Lanka will lose yet another potential export market due to poor decision-making and adhoc policies implemented.
“They are killing the industry here. Already our capacities are falling due to the lack of availability of feed, making the cost of production high. If we can’t survive today, how can they expect to exist tomorrow? By the time they attempt to fix the issue, we would have lost our export markets to competitors,” he stressed.
In recent years, industry stakeholders have had worked actively to build the industry so that we can cater high-quality eggs and meat to the international market. Stakeholders have invested about Rs. 200 billion to improve technology and standards of production, Gunasekera shared.
While the industry has repeatedly highlighted the likelihood of a severe shortage in chicken and eggs going forward, Gunasekera said the decisions taken by the government will eventually lead to the importation of protein-rich food.
If the government does take up that option, the agronomist cautioned that the possibility of a bird flu outbreak in the country is high, which will in turn close all chances of exports.
While efforts are taken to increase maize production in the country, a key ingredient for chicken feed, the authorities have cancelled out any positive outcome with the MRP, he said. As a result, industry stakeholders will be selling the existing poultry stock for meat and turn away from egg production.
“The agriculture minister announced plans to grow maize across 110,000 hectares which is a welcome move. We need locally produced maize as it accounts for 70 percent of the total cost of production. “The authorities don’t seem to understand that we can’t move forward by making losses,” he said.
The industry as a whole generates an annual turnover of Rs. 70 billion from chicken and egg exports.
Approximately Rs 10 billion is paid to the Inland Revenue by way of direct and indirect taxes.