Bird flu outbreak hit hopes of duck farmers

V.Sajeev Kumar Kochi | Updated on January 05, 2021

Government has declared the bird flu as a state disaster and included it in the list of adversities

The New Year seem to have dampened the hopes of duck farmers in Kerala’s Alappuzha and Kottayam districts with the recurrence of a bird flu. The situation has come at a time when they are trying to recoup business after the pandemic hit their trade.

The virus outbreak has affected thousands of duck farmers in Kuttanad area whose livelihood is based on duck rearing. On an average, more than 7 lakhs ducks are reared in the Kuttanad belt in a year especially with adjoining districts of Alappuzha, Kottayam and Pathanamthitta. There are more than 200 commercial duck farms with a capacity of more than 20,000 ducks per farm and thousands of duck rearing units under small holder system.

TP Sethumadhavan, Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry Department told BusinessLine that Kuttanad belt is famous for origin of native breed of Chara and Chembally ducks. Farmers are rearing native breeds along with Khaki Campbell and white pekin ducks. Of the ducks reared, 50 per cent will be male ducks which will be sold for meat in domestic market and nearby States. Around 10 private duck hatcheries are functioning in these areas.

Also read: Bird flu virus alert issued in Kerala

However, the impact of bird flu is likely to affect the market centred production system of farmers. This may lower demand for duck meat and eggs. Duck farmers practice low input system of feeding by transporting ducks across the states. Tamil Nadu already banned the transportation of ducks, meat and eggs from Kerala. Moreover, workers may not be in a position to transport ducks for nomadic feeding. Farmers could not afford to rear ducks through feeding compounded feeds. Hence, the outbreak will affect the sustainability and viability of duck rearing.

Kuttanad region is one of the famous Ramsar ecosystem where in it will be difficult to control the migrating birds which acts as the reservoir host for the virus. The current strain of virus is H5N8. The need of the hour is to establish separate breeding ground for native ducks beyond the Ramsar ecosystem. The Animal Husbandry department is taking all control measures on a war footing, he said.

Also read: Avian flu outbreak: Maharashtra animal hubandry department put on high alert

It is pointed out that the incidence of bird flu was reported in the region in 2014 and 2016, forcing the authorities to cull birds, destroy meat, eggs and feeds.

Meanwhile, the Kerala Government has declared the bird flu as a state disaster and included it in the list of adversities. According to government officials, the situation is under control now and the culling process have been started in various areas. It is estimated that around 50,000 birds of all categories have to be culled in the one km radius of the epicentre.

Published on January 05, 2021

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