The prices of broiler chicken have fallen to around Tk 200 in Dhaka after the four corporate firms in the industry announced price cuts, bringing some respite to consumers. But small farmers fear they may incur losses.
Broiler chicken has been a cheap source of protein for people with a limited income, but the prices of the product increased from around Tk 150 to Tk 260 per kg recently.
Amid the anger of the customers, the four companies – Kazi Farms, Aftab Bahumukhi Farms, Paragon Group and CP Bangladesh – said in a meeting with the Directorate of National Consumer Rights Protection or DNCRP last week that they would sell broiler chicken at Tk 190-195 a kg.
Retailers said the companies are selling at Tk 155-160 now.
The government’s consumer rights agency suspects the corporate firms have rigged the prices for profiteering.
It has decided to field agents to find out what is actually happening.
In these circumstances, Gopal Chandra Mandal, a smallholder chicken farmer in Savar, said those who bought chicks at Tk 55-60 apiece may break even if they sell at Tk 155-160 a kg at the wholesale level.
“But the prices are falling by Tk 10-15 every day," he said. "We don’t know what’ll happen after two more weeks."
Those who are buying chicks at Tk 80-90 apiece must sell at Tk 190 to make a profit, according to Gopal.
And many farmers bought chicks from the corporate firms after seeing the prices spiralling, he said.
Gopal feared the situation would force them to sign contracts with the companies.
“Everything will go under the control of the companies.”
Sumon Howlader, the president of the Bangladesh Poultry Association, accused the companies of targeting small farmers through price manipulation.
“They lured the farmers into buying chicks at higher rates by raising chicken prices. Now when we have chickens, they have cut chicken prices.”
He demanded a government board to control the poultry industry. “Otherwise, the marginal farmers will become hostage to the corporates.”
AHM Shafiquzzaman, the director general at the DNCRP, questioned the huge price cut by the corporate firms.
“They said they would cut the prices to Tk 190-195 a kg. Then why are they selling at Tk 160? It’ll make the marginal farmers count huge losses.”
“We’re looking into the matter. We’ve deployed intelligence agencies.”
Shafiquzzaman said he suspects the corporate firms picked Tk 70-80 per kg – the difference between the current and previous prices – from the pockets of the consumers.
bdnews24.com tried to reach the corporate firms for their comments about the allegations, but none agreed to give any.
Pradip Ranjan Chakrabarty, the chairperson of the Competition Commission, said they had worked on egg prices but did not have enough staff to monitor the broiler chicken market.
“We’ve told the government about the matter. I hope we’ll soon get enough manpower.”