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Thursday, Jan 30, 2003

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Rising maize prices worry chicken farmers

G. Gurumurthy


AFTER the fall in live chicken prices, maize, the principal ingredient in the poultry feed, is the new worry for the chicken growers in the country, especially Tamil Nadu.

The firming corn price and the crop failure this year have added to their fear of an early upswing in the maize price in near term.

Tamil Nadu's maize crop this season seems to be tumbling to just half of what was earlier projected at around 4 lakh tonnes.

Against this, the State may end up with only two lakh tonnes due to the failure of the North-East monsoon which belied the hopes of a full crop. The original four lakh tonnes of crop size was placed based on the off-take of the seeds by the maize farmers, the State' Broiler Coordination Committee (BCC) sources say.

``Right now the maize harvest is on in the State. Contrary to the expected sobering price during harvest, the price quotes of the new crop are keeping higher at Rs 570 to Rs 580 a quintal. This gives the fear that the prices of the commodity will soar beyond April when poultry feed manufacturers in the State would have exhausted their maize holdings,'' said Mr R. Lakshmanan, President, BCC.

With the integrated poultry farms in Tamil Nadu estimating to maintain the growth rate at 12-15 per cent this year, the drop in the State's crop by half to two lakh tonnes has brought consternation to the chicken growers. The monthly maize consumption at an average one lakh tonnes, TN poultry draws 70 per cent of them from the neighbouring Karnataka. But the drastic shortfall in Karnataka's maize crop this year has dealt a blow to the Tamil Nadu poultry

According to the BCC President, this situation would force the poultry operators in the State to look for once again an alternative grain source. The integrated poultry operators would be willing to sourcing the animal grade wheat supplies from the Food Corporation of India's godowns if the latter offers to sell it to the poultry sector. ``We learn that the FCI is currently offering its old wheat stocks (animal grade) at Rs 4-4.5 per kg for exports. If the same is offered to the domestic cattle feed industry either at the same rate or even at Rs 5, the poultry feed sector could use it to supplement the maize shortfall,'' he said.

The thinking among the BCC members is that if the FCI is forthcoming to supply a specific quantity of its old wheat stocks the former would be ready to lift the stocks and they are even willing to give an undertaking to lift up to 30,000 tonnes.

To ward off the shortage of the maize, the BCC members alternatively look at the option of calling upon the Centre to allow duty free import of maize on actual user condition basis. At present, the Union Government allows import of maize at 15 per cent customs duty up to a quantity of 4.5 lakh tonnes on actual user basis.

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