With meagre farm income from two acres of land, P R Babukuttan, a native of Sulthan Bathery in the Wayanad district of Kerala, had been struggling to run his family. A year ago, he started a poultry farm under the aegis of Brahmagiri Development Society (BDS), a government-supported co-operative venture of farmers and farmworkers in Wayanad. Over the year, he has reared 17,500 birds in seven batches, under the society’s buyback scheme, and now earns at least Rs 30,000 in a month. He is one of the 80-odd farmers who have become poultry entrepreneurs under BDS, which has a slew of interventions to shore up the fortunes of crisis-stricken farmers like Babukuttan.
BDS chairman and CPI (M) leader P Krishna Prasad said that for the first time in the country BDS has put forward a co-operative farming model to help the farmers and workers. “The society has now an alternative model which can make farmers entrepreneurs and make them shareholders of the market, avoiding middlemen. The income of farmers and workers have increased in such manner to help them tide over the farm sector crisis,’’ said Krishna Prasad.
Records show that meat production was 4.69 lakh metric ton in 2017-18. Kerala is the 8th largest meat-producing state in the country, contributing 6.1 per cent of the meat produced in India. Out of the total, 38.8 per cent is poultry meat, 33.95 per cent from cattle and 20.99 per cent from buffalo.
Despite having a robust non-vegetarian food market, the processed meat market is negligible in Kerala. BDS, started in 1999 for implementing a dairy project in Wayanad, ventured into meat processing in 2013 and poultry in December 2018, thus opening new avenues for farmers.
Poultry processing has a huge market potential in Kerala considering that 9 lakh birds are required for daily consumption in the state. At present, the market is controlled mainly by Tamil Nadu-based private agencies, who either supply market-ready birds in retail outlets or supply chicks for farmers. Private agencies give only Rs 4 to Rs 6 as rearing charge for per kg of a live bird, which becomes ripe for the market in 45 days. But, BDS, which owns breeder farm and hatchery in Tamil Nadu, gives Rs 8 to Rs 11 as rearing charge as there is no middleman.
“When prices of poultry plummet in the market, the private agencies jettison the farmer, who suffer huge losses, forcing many to quit the sector. Whereas, BDS can manage such price fluctuations and cushion its impact on farmers as the society has a processing unit where the produce could be stocked in cold storages,” said Vijesh E R, a manager with BDS.
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