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Thursday, January 28, 2021

Poultry industry steps in to quell fear about bird flu

So far, the state governments of Kerala, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh have reported mortality among birds due to the virus.

Written by Parthasarathi Biswas | Pune | Updated: January 5, 2021 8:43:32 pm
At the beginning of the lockdown last year, the poultry industry had faced huge losses after unsubstantiated social media posts linked the spread of the virus with poultry birds. (Representational Image)

The poultry industry has stepped in to address fears about a possible threat to the industry from reports of bird flu coming in from various states. So far, there has not been a single report of mortality due to bird flu in the organised poultry sector, and the reports have been about deaths of crows, migratory birds and geese.

So far, the state governments of Kerala, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh have reported mortality among birds due to the virus. While Kerala has reported the presence of the virus in the carcass of ducks, the same was reported from crows and migratory birds in the other two states. The state governments have started serro-surveillance of the avian population in their regions. Although there has been no report of similar cases in poultry birds, the industry has expressed concern about the effect of such news on their sales.

Vasant Kumar Shetty, president of the Maharashtra branch of Poultry Farmer and Breeders Association, pointed out that scare of bird flu has impacted the industry since 2006.

“However, now the consumer is not scared but such news is used by the trade to pull down prices. The same might happen this time also but unlike other times, the industry is better placed in handling the situation,” he said.

Production in the sector is 70 per cent of what the industry reported earlier, so any drastic dip in sales will not have a great impact on the prices, said Shetty.

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At the beginning of the lockdown last year, the poultry industry had faced huge losses after unsubstantiated social media posts linked the spread of the virus with poultry birds. Consumption of chicken and eggs had tanked, with the industry reporting nearly $1 billion in losses. But now, sale of poultry has picked up due to increased consumption, after many doctors insisted on the importance of protein in diets.

Maharashtra is now reporting sale of 3-3.25 crore market-ready birds per month while India reports sale of 30 crore birds in the same time, said Shetty. “As I pointed out, this is 70 per cent of the normal placement. With a supply and demand mismatch, we do not feel there would be much effect in the long run,” he said.

One of the side effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has been a reduction in mortality of birds, according to Prasanna Pedgaonkar, general manager of poultry giant Venkatesh Hatcheries. “Mortality normally increases during winter but this year, due to the pandemic, most poultry farms have created a bio-safety zone around them. Movement of people and material is also restricted, so chances of any infection has reduced,” he said.

Currently, the industry is reporting mortality of around 3 per cent, which is normally around 5 per cent.

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