June 18, 2007 12:53:39 am
On the outskirts of Pune, a farmer is skinning the fleshy legs of an emu carcass. The leg skin — reptilian in texture — is more valuable than its skin elsewhere. While the meat will be sold to a dhaba on the Mumbai-Pune highway, the maximum money is in the four-kg fat that has been extracted. “This will be converted into oil. This is the future of emu farming,” says Bhadresh Mehta, proprietor, Kalpataru Emu Management and Products, who has 800 birds.
Deepak Gonsalves, another emu farmer in Wada taluka in Thane district who has around 90 birds, manually extracts crude emu oil to send it across to a processing centre in Hyderabad.
While emu farming has caught on in Maharashtra, most of the income generated now is through eggs — a lucrative proposition by itself. The emerald green emu eggs fetch Rs 600-1,000 in the market.
Since 2000, 450 farmers across the state have taken up emu farming and there are around 10,000 birds between them — a number that is insufficient to start processing emu products.
According to Dr Ajit Ranade, Head of Poultry Science, Bombay Veterinary College, inbreeding of emu birds is one of the problems blocking growth of this industry in India. Separation of sibling birds is a must if productivity is to go up — something that most emu farms in the state fail to do, according to Mehta.
Emu farming did not get much funding, till October 2004 when NABARD gave the go ahead. “Emu farming offers great scope and potential because of its supplementary income, additional employment and simplicity in operation,” says the Nabard ‘Model Bankable Project on Emu Farming’.
SBI is one bank that has come forward to expose itself to the uncertainties of emu farming. It has tied up with Mehta’s farm to makes loans easily available for farmers. More are on the anvil.
“The Baramati Emu Farming Association has approached us, and we are going to enter with a tie-up arrangement with the Company,” said RS Bharadwaj, Agri-Business Unit, SBI, Mumbai.
However, the industry will come on its own only when its by-products are exploited.