About a decade ago,Kashmir valley used to import all of its poultry meat from states like Punjab,Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. But at present,it is fulfilling almost 70 per cent of its poultry demand,by rearing chicks locally.
In a place where 85 per cent of the population is non-vegetarian,the demand for poultry meat never seems to fall. With government acting as a facilitator,poultry farming has entirely become a private sector in Kashmir.
According to official estimates,the valley has an annual demand of 4-5 crore kg of poultry meat,out of which 3.4 crore kg is being supplied by local poultry farms a remarkable jump from what it was about a decade ago. From a negligible contribution to the state economy,the local poultry industry currently has an annual turnover of Rs 1,300 crore.
According to the figures provided by the Animal Husbandry Department,there were 300 privately owned poultry farms in 1996-97. The number went up to 3,196 in 2011-12. Besides improvement in poultry meat production,employment opportunities have got a push through this industry. At least 15,000 people are currently associated with poultry farming in Kashmir for their livelihood.
There is a tremendous scope for poultry in Kashmir. The industry has a huge employment potential, says Dr Syed Altaf Gilani,who besides serving as an assistant manager in a government poultry farm,also runs valleys first and only private poultry consultancy service. Another 20,000 youth can easily be absorbed in poultry sector, he says.
A good example of the thriving poultry industry is Parigam village in south Kashmirs Pulwama district. In the last decade,the village has seen a massive shift of people taking up poultry rearing. This village of around 15,000 people currently has more than 400 poultry farms,producing annually up to 15 lakh broilers. The village has not only seen cropping up of poultry farms but locals have also taken up tertiary business like supplying feed,medicines,and transportation for these units.
Ghulam Mohideen Bhat,39,who started his poultry farm unit in 2004,says that he earns enough for his livelihood through this business. I earn minimum Rs 10,000 per month, he says.
Another farmer,Ghulam Qadir Bhat,40,who is in poultry business for the past two decades,says the only losses they suffer is because of the government. We should be provided chicken feed and other inputs through proper government channels at subsidised rates, he says. If the government gives us what we need,you cant imagine the scope of poultry sector in Kashmir.
Officials admit that since the rearing of poultry has been increasing,the focus should also shift. We need a policy that should give some sort of protection for a time period,so that our own industry grows, says Dr Muyeen Chisti,technical officer poultry,Animal Husbandry Department,Kashmir.
We are dependent on the outside states for various inputs associated with poultry,there should be a mechanism through which we can facilitate the local manufacturing of these inputs, says Chisti.
Ghulam Mohideen says dependence for inputs on other states gives them a monopoly over the market. Any small change in a production cost in Punjab or Haryana directly impacts the market value of chickens in the valley, he says. There should be a mechanism for rate control in place.
Chisti accepts that the demands are genuine. We also feel that some mechanism should be created so that the rates are fixed as per the rate of production cost, he says.