July 21, 2021


Kerala, India hotel sector threatens not to serve chicken as prices surge



Hotels in Kerala, India, have threatened to remove chicken off the menu if the Indian government does not intervene to control surging prices.


Chicken prices had nearly doubled in two weeks, the Kerala Hotel and Restaurant Association (KHRA) said, alleging that lobbies in other Indian states were trying to create an artificial scarcity of chicken in Kerala to drive up prices. The price of broiler chicken in Kerala has reached ₹150-160/kg (US$2.01-2.14).


In a statement, the association said 80% of the chicken sold in Kerala was to hotels. Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, hotels are allowed only parcel delivery. Already struggling to recover costs, the hotels had been hit hard by the soaring chicken prices. If the prices continued to increase, hotels would be forced to drop chicken dishes from the menu, it said.


G. Jayapal, general secretary of KHRA, said wholesale dealers who monopolised the business in neighbouring states were slashing production to hike prices. "We want the government to increase production within the state to become self-reliant and prevent such price fluctuations," he said.


TP Sethumadhavan, former director of entrepreneurship at Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, however, attributed the price rise to lockdown disruptions, demand-supply mismatch and increase in cost of production. "Due to continuous lockdown and disruption in the supply chain, more than 50 % of the broiler growers and entrepreneurs, especially those running small farms, temporarily closed their business," he said.


SK Naseer, general secretary of All Kerala Poultry Federation, said the boycott of chicken dishes was impractical as chicken was the main ingredient in several dishes. "The production cost for 1kg of chicken is slightly less than ₹100 (US$1.34). But if it sells for ₹55 (US$0.74) or ₹60 (US$0.80) a kg, how would they survive," he added.


The increase in cost of feed and transportation had also made an impact on prices.


According to Naseer, the government should declare a base price for chicken so that farmers were not left in the lurch in case of decline in prices. Kerlala's share in the poultry business was also very low. Poultry factories should be set up in all districts, he said.


Vinod John, managing director of Kerala State Poultry Development Corporation (Kepco), said the prices of soy and maize, main ingredients in poultry feed, were high. Combined with high labour and fuel prices, the cost of production of feed had increased, leading to a rise in market price. Feed was also difficult to come by in the market.


Dr. Sethumadhavan felt that the current price hike may continue till the next harvest season when the price of raw material for feed declines. The emerging festival seasons, including Bakrid, will favour consumer demand for chicken, he added.


- The Hindu