Workers with crates of unbroken eggs at wholesaler KD Singh’s shop on Old Hazaribagh Road in Ranchi on Sunday. Picture by Hardeep Singh
The pot-holed National Highway 33 has hatched a heartbreak this Yuletide season.
Eggs, the number one ingredient to make cakes soft and spongy that bakers and foodies swear by, are cracking inside crates on trucks from Hyderabad trundling along the cratered highway.
As more eggs crack on NH-33 before they reach the capital, wholesalers are forced to jack up rates from Rs 48 per dozen in November to Rs 56 now. A tray of 30 eggs costs Rs 133 in the wholesale market.
In a domino effect, retailers are forced to hike the price of eggs to around Rs 65 per dozen or Rs 140 and above per tray.
For bakeries and homemakers, the choice is between the devil and the deep sea.
Add less number of eggs in the cake batter to save money and literally hit Xmas revelry hard. Or else, add enough eggs to bake soft and tasty cakes that leave a bitter taste in the mouth due to cost.
“There is no crisis of production in Hyderabad, the main hub of egg production. The inflation in egg rates is due to bad roads, especially on NH-33, on which trucks laden with eggs come to Ranchi. I’ll advise revellers to purchase eggs in trays and not by the dozen,” K.D. Singh, a well-known egg wholesaler on Old Hazaribagh Road in Ranchi said.
He added the bumpy ride causes fragile eggshells to crack, resulting in waste.
“Rise in price of eggs in this season is unfortunate but if the powers-that-be repair the NH-33 these problems would automatically cease,” Singh said.
Sarfaraz Hussain of Jharkhand Egg Traders on Lake Road has kept the wholesale price for 12 eggs at Rs 60 and a tray at Rs 133.
Hussain said they needed to make up for the loss they faced due to damaged eggs.
“The NH-33 is in such bad shape that we can’t commit bulk deliveries to retailers unless trucks reach Ranchi. When they do, many eggs are found broken,” he said.
Imtiyaz Ali, a retailer, who buys egg trays from Hussain, said everyone was hit hard. “I sell eggs for Rs 62 to 65 a dozen. For trays, the price is Rs 140. We keep the price on the higher side because an egg is always prone to damage.”
It remains to be seen how bakers manage the price rise — reduce the number of eggs in their cakes or try vegetarian substitutes.
But many homemakers are adamant on a no-compromise policy.
“Christmas comes once a year. I will not compromise on the number of eggs in my cake mixes,” said Manasi Biswas, a mother of two who stays in New Nagratoli and bakes cakes at home for her family as well as for her friends.
She added the middle classes had become immune to the year’s ups and downs. “First, it was onions, then potatoes and now eggs. But egg yolks give cakes their flavour and whites the fluffiness,” smiled the seasoned baker.