Agri Business

Bird flu, cyclone, lockdowns take a toll on poultry sector

KV Kurmanath/TV Jayan Hyderabad/New Delhi | Updated on May 22, 2021

Retail chicken prices surge, but farmgate price plummets

With cyclone Tauktae in the West, avian influenza in the North and local shutdowns in the South, things could not have gone any worsethan this for the Indian poultry industry. This is the third time in the last 14 months that the poultry industry is going through such a rough patch.

Though the retail prices of eggs and chicken have increased sharply, farmers, particularly broiler farmers, have suffered huge losses over the past two weeks.

While farmgate egg prices are ruling high at ₹4.60-5 a piece, prices of broiler chicken have dropped to ₹65-70 a kg in key markets. Retail prices of eggs are hovering at ₹6 and above a piece and chicken at ₹200 a kg in Hyderabad. Farmgate prices of chicken in Karnataka are hovering around ₹60-75 per kg — below the cost of production of ₹90-95. But at retail outlets in Mangaluru and Bengaluru, chicken prices are hovering above ₹150 and ₹200, respectively.

“People have increased their intake of eggs during the pandemic. Though there is a short window of 4-6 hours in local lockdowns, people are rushing to the retail outlets to fetch eggs as they are rich in proteins,” Suresh Chitturi, Chairman of International Egg Commission and Managing Director of Srinivasa Hatcheries, told BusinessLine.

Broiler farmers are under pressure to sell the birds at ₹65-70 a kg against a production cost of ₹90 in order to dump the stocks. “Thousands of hotels and eateries are closed due to the lockdown, leaving huge supplies of birds in the farms,” Subba Raju, a poultry farmer.

Ramesh Chander Khatri, President, Poultry Federation of India, said that almost 70 per cent of the poultry industry in North India has been affected.

“Bird flu a few months ago, as well as intermittent lockdowns due to Covid-9 pandemic, has more or less destroyed the industry. While some farms have lost all birds, most others have only 50 per cent capacity left,” he said.

Punjab and Haryana have the maximum number of poultry farms, but UP too has some.

Prohibitive feed costs

“The cost of feed has increased so much that it is no more viable. It has gone up by nearly 1.5 time to 1.75 times more compared with last year,” Khatri said. Prices of soyameal, for instance, have increased to ₹75 a kg from ₹30-35 a few months ago. “Currently most of us are running the farms on the cost basis,” he said.

This industry, he said, will survive only if it runs properly for two years without any disruption.

“There’s not much of reported damage in Karnataka’s poultry sector due to Cyclone Tauktae,” said Sushant Kumar Rai, President of The Karnataka Poultry Farmers & Breeders Association (KPFBA).

However, he said the restrictions in timings imposed on operations of the retail outlets selling poultry products is leading to overcrowding at the shops.

KSFBA has urged the Karnataka Government to allow chicken retail outlets to operate from 6 am to 2 pm daily against the current timings of 6 am to 10 am.

Cyclone Tauktae has not made any significant impact on Kerala’s poultry sector with less than 2 per cent out of the one lakh farmers being affected. The destruction was mainly confined to a few parts of the State particularly in the eastern parts of Ernakulam district and Kottayam.

Putting the loss at ₹1.5 crore, TS Pramod, Kerala State Secretary, Poultry Farmers and Traders Samithy, said several sheds of hatcheries were destroyed due to falling of trees in the winds and stocks have been washed off from farms in the heavy rains.

Covid impact

The Kerala’s poultry industry suffered heavily because of Covid. “The pandemic has led to subdued demand for poultry meat sales. The farmgate price of live broiler birds has dropped to ₹60-62 a kg due to the rise in raw material costs,” he said.

The average sales of poultry meat in Kerala is estimated at two crore kg and there is a 30 per cent drop mainly because of the decision of the authorities to allow the opening of broiler chicken outlets on alternative days in the lockdown. The high production cost has forced many farmers to stop poultry farming, he added.

The cyclone effect on Gujarat's poultry sector has been minuscule primarily because of the concentration of the poultry farms in select few districts, which didn't face the cyclone fury.

An official from the Gujarat Government’s Animal Husbandry Department saidthe hub of poultry farms — Anand, Kheda and Vadodara — has lost a few thousand birds. “The cyclone effect is minuscule as these districts didn’t face the severity of the cyclone. However, there were rains and strong winds, because of which there are reports of about 4,000-5,000 birds lost,” he said.

According to an estimate, Anand-Kheda districts have over 50 per cent of Gujarat's poultry population. The districts were far from the eye of the storm, which passed through the Saurashtra region, which gets its poultry supplies from Anand and Vadodara districts.

(With inputs from Vishwanath Kulkarni, Bangalore; Sajeev Kumar, Kochi; and Rutam Vora, Ahmedabad)

Published on May 21, 2021

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