Asia’s layer duck industry offers long-term growth potential

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Farmers in Tamil Nadu, India engage in an integrated duck rearing system which goes together with paddy harvesting.

Duck egg producers in the region are optimistic of growth. However, the farming system, genetics, and egg quality should be improved, writes MELIYANA and the Asian Agribiz team.

Duck eggs in the Philippines are produced primarily for balut (boiled fertilized duck eggs), a popular delicacy. They are also used to produced penoy (boiled infertile duck eggs) and salted eggs.

Balut and penoy are mostly peddled on the streets. Meanwhile, salted eggs are sold mostly in wet markets, and now, taking up space on supermarket shelves.

Duck eggs are predominantly processed into balut (boiled fertilized duck egg), the most popular duck egg delicacy in the Philippines.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed layer duck inventory on January 1, 2020, at nearly 6.55 million birds. Since 2018, expansion in the commercial sector has risen significantly, growing by 12% in 2018-2019 and 20% in 2019-2020.

On the other hand, the backyard sector has been relatively stable. Production too has been on the rise. From 42,404 tons in 2015, egg production rose to 50,484 tons in 2020.

In the first half of 2021, layers were around 7.2 million birds, up 4.9% yoy. Central Luzon has about 46% (over 3.33 million birds).

Industry players tell Asian Agribiz that there is growing demand for duck eggs.

“There is room for growth, not just in Luzon, but as far away as Mindanao. Truth be told, we cannot meet demand so this industry has no way to go but up,” a duck egg producer in Central Luzon told Asian Agribiz.

He explained that deteriorating genetics is an issue. “This is our biggest challenge, how to improve the quality of our ducks so that they can lay more eggs,” he said.

Transformation for better

In Vietnam, the duck egg sector has not been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Demand has increased in the past year as duck egg are deemed to be highly nutritious and easy to store.

Last year, the country’s layer duck population increased by 1 million birds to 31.8 million. Some 2 million are in Dong Thap, a major duck breeding province in the Mekong Delta.

Dong Thap has stepped up for intensive farming to improve product quality and stabilize output for farmers.

To build the duck industry value chain, in 2018, Dong Thap’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development initiated a project to encourage investment and linkage between companies and farmers, while launching promotions to boost consumption.

VFood is the first company in Vietnam successful in creating a duck egg production chain with full traceability.

Key components of the project include building a quality breeding center, encouraging concentrated farming, guiding farmers to comply with the Vietnamese Good Animal Husbandry Practices, and building a strong brand for duck eggs from Dong Thap.

To link with the market and to improve productivity, some farmers follow the intensive farming method of Vinh Thanh Dat (VFood), the only company that produces duck eggs with traceability.

“There are 10 members in VFood’s association with Dong Thap farmers. This will increase because many duck breeders are switching to intensive farming as the traditional free-range farming has low productivity, high disease risk, and heavy pesticides residues,” VFood’s General Director Truong Chi Thien told Asian Agribiz.

Not pandemic proof

Like the other agriculture sub-sectors, the layer duck sub-sector in Indonesia is not free of Covid-19.

L Hardi Prasetyo

Last year, the pandemic caused a 70% drop in layer day-old duck (DOD) production and a 50% decrease in duck egg production, revealed L Hardi Prasetyo, a duck scientist and consultant.

“Last year was bad for the industry. The horeca sector, the largest user of duck eggs, had to close to control the pandemic impacting demand,” he told Asian Agribiz.

In 2019, the layer duck population was 51.9 million birds or a 2.8% in increase from the previous year. In the same period, duck egg production was 321,000 tons, up 4.7% from the previous period.

Prospective market

This year so far, demand for duck eggs is fluid, showing little recovery. He observed that some farmers in East Java and Wast Java have increased production. “This means the domestic market is recovering,” he said.

Dr Prasetyo is optimistic that duck egg demand will grow. Demand now is for raw and salted eggs, and salted egg sauce. Salted egg sauce is popular for seafood menus and fish skin chips,” he explained.

Ashadi, Leader of Sinar Harapan, a group of layer duck farmers in Blitar, East Java is also optimistic about market potential.

“Demand for duck egg is high, and we need to raise production,” he told Asian Agribiz. “We can only meet 25% of the total demand from customers in Java and Sumatera.”   

Problems to solve

Dr Prasetyo added that the industry is unorganized and most producers are small-scale farmers. They raise their layer ducks under a semi-intensive system.

“This must be improved. With an intensive system, production will be higher and egg quality will be better,” he said. “Small-scale farmers should be grouped to secure an edge when buying feed raw materials and when selling eggs.”

Intensive farming can generate a 20% increase in egg production compared to traditional free-range farming.

DOD quality is also a challenge. Many farmers still use inferior quality DOD from traditional breeders. The Livestock Research Agency has developed ‘Master’ layer duck strain. Companies interested can partner to further develop and commercialize this strain.

Last but not least is egg quality. According to Dr Prasetyo, the time is right for layer duck farmers to not only learn about how to produce more, but also how to produce better.

“Better quality eggs can be exported. A duck egg producer in Karawang regularly exports to Singapore,” he explained.

Pressure from feed price

In Thailand, small-scale layer duck farms have been affected by higher feed raw material prices.

Laddawan Ungsawap

“Feed costs rose significantly this year. More than 10 farmers in Chachoengsao province suspended production because of losses,” Laddawan Ungsawap, owner of a layer duck farm in Chachoengsao province told Asian Agribiz.

Duck egg prices have risen while consumption has slipped due to the economic impact of Covid-19.

From 6000 layers last year, the farm currently has 2500 layers, producing 2200-2300 eggs daily. Ms Laddawan has reduced production due to higher feed costs and the farm’s thinner margins.

Although the sector is currently ailing, Ms Laddawan believes the market has long-term growth potential.  “Duck eggs can be used in several menus and can be used as ingredients in cakes, bakery, and Thai desserts,” Ms Laddawan said.

Unorganized, but projects potential

Layer duck industry is most unorganized and limited to backyard farms in India and Bangladesh. Nevertheless, layer duck populations in these two countries numbered 33.51 million and 59.7 million birds, respectively in 2019.

P Dhanasekaran, CEO of India’s MPM Egg Traders told Asian Agribiz that duck eggs are considered a niche market and  consumed mainly in states like Kerala and West Bengal.

MPM, an exotic egg seller in Tamil Nadu, has been sourcing eggs from local farmers and retailing them packed and cleaned to (online and offline) modern trade.

Laddawan Ungsawap promotes duck eggs via social media platforms including Facebook and Line.

“Around 20% of our sales or around 40,000 eggs/month are duck eggs. There is potential for growth, but slow, as duck eggs are expensive,” said Mr Dhanasekaran.

Despite this, health-conscious consumers looking for alternatives to chicken eggs have shown interest in duck eggs. He is also studying export options to China and the Middle East.

The eggs are sourced from rural farmers who practice an integrated duck rearing system, which goes together with paddy harvesting.

In this system duck production is integrated into rice cultivation, where 50% are raised for meat and 50% for eggs. In paddy fields ducks eat snails and insects, helping control these pests while getting nutritious feed.

Mr Dhanasekaran said they can raise duck eggs to 100,000-200,000/month but the market is not ready yet. Further, he noted that duck eggs are susceptible to contamination, thus proper handling and storage is a challenge.

“We have been cleaning the eggs manually so far. We are investing in an egg cleaning and washing machine.”

Duck eggs also have a short shelf life and must be consumed within seven days, said Mr Dhanasekaran, noting another challenge in the marketing and distribution of the product.

Read more:
Philippine layer duck breed boosts egg production
Indonesian duck egg producers not concerned with quality