During his 14-day isolation period after testing positive for Covid-19, K Ramakrishna, a strict vegetarian for over 25 years, started including two eggs in his daily diet. His doctor had asked him to raise his protein intake and this was the easiest source.

Ramakrishna is not the only one. Over the last 14 months, several vegetarians have added eggs to their daily menu even as regular consumers upped their intake, boosting egg sales across the country.

“We have added a Germany to our consumption numbers,” exclaims Suresh Chitturi, Chairman of the International Egg Commission and Managing Director of Srinivasa Farms. He says the per capita egg consumption in India has gone up to 81 a year as against 75 about two years ago.

A chunk of the growth came in from the additional demand for protein-rich food during the pandemic, says K V S Subba Raju, National Vice-Chairman (Coordination) of the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), an umbrella organisation of egg farmers.

Batting for eggs

Although India’s per capita egg consumption has gone up, it is far lower than the global number of 161 eggs. Sensing an opportunity, the NECC is now egging on people to consume more through a star powered ad campaign.

Cricketers Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev and Rahul Dravid bat for the humble protein in the ad that plays up the strength-building proposition of eggs. India, which is the third largest producer of eggs in the world after China and the US, produces about 11,000 crore eggs a year with a layer bird population of 27 crore. The South dominates the egg production space by contributing two-thirds of the total output. The Union Ministry of Agriculture estimates that the production would go up to 11,600 crore eggs a year in the current financial year.

The good news for layer poultry farmers (those in egg production) is that with the retail market showing an uptick, they are able to command better prices even though broiler farmers are reporting losses with eateries and hotels closed across the country due to local shutdowns.

Retail prices of eggs are quoting beyond ₹6 a piece, with farmgate prices hovering around ₹4.65-5.60 a piece.

Walking on egg shells

It’s not all smooth sailing though. Subba Raju sayslayer farmers suffered a setback when avian flu was reported in many parts of the country earlier this year and about one crore of the 27 crore layer birds were culled. The cyclone on the western coast also impacted production, resulting in a shortage and increase in prices.

“The cost of production has gone up significantly as the soya cake (feed) has gone up to ₹70-73 a kg now from ₹29 a kg in October 2020,” he says.