November 29, 2011
India's poultry sector appears to be heading for crisis amidst government's measures to give boost to its agriculture and allied sectors.
The State is reckoned as the largest contributor to the industry, registering one-third of the country's INR55,000 crore (US$10.6 billion) annual turnover in poultry business, but the sector is faced with myriad problems. Among the challenges is the prospect of shortage of feed, basically corn and soy, in addition to inadequate financing by banks.
In spite of its impressive contribution, no effort has been made to accelerate research and development activities. Registering a healthy growth ranging between 10% and 12% annually, the sector is crying for attention in the form of an enabling policy framework to help sustain the growth.
Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu account for about 70% of poultry activities in the country which is ranked fourth in egg and fifth in broiler production globally. In addition, the poultry sector is among the largest employment provider after agriculture contributing about six million direct and indirect jobs, a number that is expected to go up to 8.2 million by the year 2015.
The sector was first hit by the scare of the avian influenza, bird flu as it was called three years ago, and the ongoing power crisis only compounded the problems of the sector. "Exports were hit badly by the bird flu and we are yet to completely recover," says P. Chakradhar Rao, president, Indian Poultry Equipment Manufacturers' Association.
Poultry breeders tried to put up with the thrice-a-week power cuts by installing generators, but a solution was not simple as it appeared to be. "AP Transco's restrictions on use of generators and its insistence on obtaining special permissions for using generators is a clear pointer of the authorities' attitude towards the sector," AP Poultry Breeders' Association president D. Ram Reddy says.
The government exempted poultry sheds and annexes from house tax in the past and Kotla Vijayabhaskara Reddy included this in the AP Panchayat Raj manual when he was Chief Minister. But small poultry farmers in the villages continued to be harassed by the authorities and forced to pay up house tax even today.
One of the biggest challenges the sector faces is to make sure the feed requirements of a burgeoning poultry population are met. But those engaged in business find it a difficult proposition to ensure increase in the sown area of corn and soy.
Breeders also face problems in importing crushing equipment for corn, an important constituent of the feed, due to hurdles in the form of Central Excise rules. The authorities want them to furnish guarantee that the machines will not be used as stone crushers!
Minister for Information Technology Ponnala Lakshmaiah, who is a poultry farmer himself in his native Warangal district, says poultry does not get due recognition although it has the best potential in the agriculture allied sectors. A major saving in the fertiliser subsidy of INR97,000 crore (US$18.7 billion) could be made by increasing the use of poultry feed instead of fertilisers.
Despite the State being the largest contributor to the industry, the government is doing little to address the problems being faced by the sector.