The poultry industry in Maharashtra, which is trying hard to recover the losses it incurred during the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, is worried about the bird flu cases and spread of misinformation. 

C Vasanthkumar, President Poultry Farmers and Breeders Association (Maharashtra). said that as per media reports, bird flu cases have been detected in the Thane district, following the death of around 100 birds at a poultry farm in Shahapur. 

“However, Poultry Farmers and Breeders Association (MH) here wants to clarify that there is no need for panic. This infection is only limited to a particular area only,” he said . “Our chicken-eating style (in India) is different than other countries, in which we use to cook chicken at above 70 degrees Celcius. Hence there is no chance of survival of any pathogen in the chicken. Hence we suggest to consumers that they need not be worried about infection. They can consume cooked chicken and eggs without any hesitation,” he added. 

As per the Livestock Census 2019, Maharashtra, with total livestock of about 3.31 crore, ranks seventh at the all-India level. The State ranks fifth at the all-India level, with poultry birds population of about 7.43 crore. 

The State government in its last Economic Survey reported that during the Covid-19 pandemic, the poultry industry faced a demand crisis from February-April 2020 due to widespread rumors and false information through social media. The State created mass awareness through radio, television, and other media about the safety of consumption of poultry products and nutritional benefits therein. 

Major challenge for small players

Poultry industry players say that the bird flu outbreak in Thane would poise a major challenge before small players in the industry. “

In the last two years, many small poultry owners have suffered heavily, and many have shut the business. We are in the process of making a list of all those who have stopped the business due to the losses incurred during Covid-19,” said one of the officials associated with the Poultry Farmers and Breeders Association. He added that only major players are able to sustain the pandemic and price hike in poultry feed. 

Restricting spread

State Animal Husbandry Minister Sunil Kedar said that a large number of people in the State are directly and indirectly involved in the poultry industry and panic must not be created as it might disturb the sector. 

Kedar has directed the administration to restrict the spread of bird flu by taking immediate steps at the poultry farm in Thane. The Animal Husbandry Department has directed district collectors to report any unusual bird deaths.

Poultry owners and hatcheries have been asked to report unusual sickness and mortality. Kedar insisted that H5N1 avian influenza cases were restricted to a particular poultry farm in Thane and there are no reports of the spread in other parts of the State.