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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Avian flu: Demand for chicken drops, broiler farmers body says ‘unfounded campaign creating panic’

Anwesh Patel, president of GBFCC and owner of around 10 poultry farms in Anand district, said the consumption of broiler chicken in Gujarat is pegged at 600 tonnes per day, and the industry has seen a 90% dip in sales since Monday.

Written by Aditi Raja | Vadodara | Updated: January 7, 2021 7:59:13 pm
Bird Flu, Gujarat, Poultry farmingPatel says that following heavy losses the industry suffered between February and May last year when Covid-19 pandemic struck, the business had only started picking up since the last quarter of 2020. (Express photo for representation)

The outbreak of avian influenza in several states across the country had its impact on poultry farming industry in Gujarat with prices plunging below the cost of production due to apprehension among consumers.

The Gujarat Broiler Farmers Coordination Committee (GBFCC) has blamed the loss suffered by the industry to “unfounded” campaign creating panic among consumers.

Anwesh Patel, president of GBFCC and owner of around 10 poultry farms in Anand district, says that the consumption of broiler chicken in Gujarat is pegged at 600 tonnes per day and the industry has seen a 90% dip in sales since Monday.

“The cost of production is Rs 80 per kg of chicken. Gujarat poultry industry supplies 75 lakh broiler chickens per month, weighing about two kilos each on an average. That makes it 20 lakh broiler chickens per week and a weight of 44 lakh kilos. Every poultry farm has a production cycle that cannot be broken. The chickens that are in production will continue to grow and as long as they are in the farm, they have to be fed,” Patel told The Indian Express.

“The standard weight at which they are sold is between 900 grams to 2.5 kilos per bird. If the bird has grown beyond this weight, consumers in cities do not buy because they want tender flesh and not firm fibrous meat. So, we cannot hold the stock beyond a point,” he added. Given the ongoing winter season, eggs, the committee says, can be preserved for 15 days.

Patel says that following heavy losses the industry suffered between February and May last year when Covid-19 pandemic struck, the business had only started picking up since the last quarter of 2020.

“Between mid-February and May-end, Gujarat Broiler industry suffered a loss of Rs 350 crore because viral messages created fear among consumers who refused to buy poultry. Thereafter, the administration refused to cooperate despite Ministry of Home Affairs listing meat and poultry as essential commodity. Similarly, now with the avian flu, the poultry industry is being targetted despite not having a single case of known poultry bird flu,” Patel said.

Migratory birds coming into Gujarat are carriers of the virus that affects avian species, Patel said, adding, “It is like any other natural animal flu. But to say that poultry birds are infected and so people should avoid eating chicken is unfounded. We are aware that there is no infection in our farms. The last detected bird flu in poultry occurred in 2006… Also, the Indian cooking style does not allow any virus to sustain.”

According to meat and poultry vendors, traders are picking up less stock due to the sudden drop in the demand. “The entire supply chain will be affected… we cannot keep the bird for long. We only stock for upto two days with minimum feed requirements. We have realised that the inquiries for sale drastically reduced since Monday… So we did not pick up our regular quantity on Tuesday and Wednesday. The trade price of the bird dropped on Thursday below Rs 75 per kilo as the poultry farmers are willing to sell at any price than to bear more loss in feeding the chicken,” said a trader in Tandalja area of Vadodara.

According to GBFCC, the chickens that grow beyond 2.5 kilos are then sold off in tribal areas with much difficulty where people prefer firm meat over the tender meat. Patel said, “The losses that we faced last year were so much that we can only hope that people do not spread rumours about poultry farms… We are taking utmost care. It is necessary to remind people that chicken and eggs are the finest sources of protein and help boost immunity.”

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