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‘Importing GM soyameal not permanent solution; Distillers Dried Grains can provide alternative’

Partha Sarathi Biswas speaks to Atul Chaturvedi, secretary, Animal Husbandry Department, government of India, about the state of the sector in the country and plans for improvement of the same.

Written by Partha Sarathi Biswas | Pune |
Updated: December 14, 2021 11:37:48 pm
Pune, Soymeal, animal husbandry, animal husbandry department, Atul Chaturvedi, Pune, Pune news, Indian express, Indian express news, Pune latest newsAtul Chaturvedi, secretary, Animal Husbandry Department. (Twitter/@atul1chaturvedi)

Once considered a “side business” to agriculture, Animal Husbandry has come into its own over the last few decades. The sector contributes to more than a quarter of the national agricultural GDP and is a major employment generator in rural parts of the country. However, the sector has its own challenges with low productivity and lack of scientific rearing of animals plaguing it. For the poultry sector, over-dependence on soyabean as a source of protein has posed problems in light of the rising cost of production. Partha Sarathi Biswas speaks to Atul Chaturvedi, secretary, Animal Husbandry Department, government of India, about the state of the sector in the country and plans for improvement of the same. Excerpts:

Q. For the last two years, the poultry sector has been hit due to high cost of soyameal, leading to the import of Genetically Modified (GM) soyameal for the first time in the country. This crisis has highlighted the need for alternate protein for the sector. What is your department’s take on this?

A. The department has a cell, which regularly monitors the price of soyameal and intimates states in case of a rise. GM soyameal was able to give some relief to the sector but imports can never be a permanent solution.

At this juncture, I would like to talk about Distillers Dried Grains (DDGs) – a byproduct of ethanol produced from grains. This high-protein feed can replace maize and soyameal in poultry feed by 50 per cent and 60 per cent respectively. (Poultry feed is a mixture of maize, which is the carbohydrate component, and soyameal, which is the protein component of the feed). As ethanol production increases in the country and grain-based ethanol makes its presence felt, DDGs can provide an alternative to soyameal for the industry.

Q Bird flu is a major problem with the poultry industry. Many in the industry say the disease spreads into organised poultry from backyard birds. What is your take on this?

A. This thinking is wrong. Bird flu is brought to India by migratory birds flying in from other continents. Inter-mixing of these birds with commercially reared birds is what leads to the disease in India.
Backyard poultry is a major contributor to the sector and indigenous birds have qualities that make them stand out against their commercially reared counterparts. Breeds like Kadaknath have a major demand in India and outside and we should allow our farmers to tap that. Our department has announced a special scheme wherein the central government would provide 50 per cent subsidy to entrepreneurs who set up commercial hatcheries for indigenous breeds. Commercial poultry has been successful given the availability of scientific hatcheries and we want to replicate the same in backyard poultry also.

States have been asked to seek application for setting up of such hatcheries as part of the National Livestock Mission announced this August.

Q. Technology in breed improvement has been a flagship programme for the country. However, technologies such as sex-selected semen (semen which would increase the chances of conception of female calf) or in-vitro fertilisation (test tube technology) are yet to become affordable or commonly available. How do you plan to increase penetration of such technologies in the country?

A. Sex-sorted semen as a technology is highly patented and is controlled by just two companies worldwide. In the last few years, facilities have been set up in the country but on the ground, farmers are yet to harvest the benefit of this technology. Given the scenario, we have devised a scheme wherein subsidy would be given on production and not the process. Better honorarium would also be given to Artificial Insemination (AI) technicians, which will allow for better talent to come into the sector. Similarly, we are giving subsidy on in-vitro fertilisation, which will help in overall improvement of breeds. As against the global annual productivity of 10,000 kg milk yields per year, our animals report around 900 kg of milk per year. We hope better penetration of technology will help us increase this over the next few years.

Q. Fodder and veterinarian services are also a concern for the sector. What are the plans for improving both?

A. Round-the-year availability of fodder is a serious problem as during the winter and summer months, green fodder becomes scare. In this regard, we have announced a 60 per cent subsidy programme for fodder production and will also be helping farmers with certified seeds and good price on the final product.

We aim to encourage growth of fodder entrepreneurs who would buy the green fodder from the farmers and convert it into silage (bags of dried fodder) or bales of hay. This would ensure dairy farmers get fodder round-the-clock and a new breed of entrepreneurs gets into business.

India has a serious supply crunch of trained veterinarians, which is a major challenge before the sector. To deal with this, we have devised a 100 per cent subsidy scheme for veterinarian vans, which will act as mobile hospitals for animals. The government will provide 60 per cent subsidy on operational costs. This will help in attracting quality talent to the sector.

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