December 22, 2008


Small-scale Indian farmers leave poultry farming on bird flu scare


Hit by repeated outbreaks of bird flu and high poultry feed prices, small-scaled Indian poultry farmers are seen to abandon backyard farming and this trend may escalate as domestic consumption growth slows, according to officials.


Since the February bird flu occurrence which began in reported in western state of Maharashtra, the country has been hit by an onslaught of outbreaks in the eastern and north-eastern regions. The disease continued its havoc in three eastern states and culling operations are still underway.


Countries have since restricted the import of Indian poultry products  and domestic market also saw price falls due to panic among consumers.


Anuradha Desai, chairwoman of India's National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), said repeated declarations of bird flu outbreak in backyard poultry are scarring small farmers and they are leaving the business.


Desai, also the chief of Venkateshwara Hatcheries, the country's largest poultry producer, added that poultry prices had become volatile in past few years due to outbreaks and small farmers leave the business when prices plummet.


B. Soundarajan, managing director of Suguna Poultry Farm Ltd, said profits suffered due to higher raw material prices.


The number of eggs hatched has fallen by 15.8 percent to 32 million a week, from 38 million a week a year ago, he said. Egg production remains steady at 12 million eggs per day.


Vasant Kumar, managing director of Balkrishna Hatcheries pointed out that prices of corn and soymeal are double those compared three years back. Corn and soymeal, are mainly used as poultry feed in India.


Soymeal is priced at Rs13,400 per tonne in Indore, a main spot market, compared with Rs7,900 in December 2005.


Despite the grim outlook, poultry product prices are likely to hold out, and not fall sharply at least during the winter season as consumption usually increases in India during winter season.


Egg prices have dropped by 10 percent to Rs180 (US$3.82) per 100 eggs since the outbreak in November, while chicken prices are steady at Rs43 per kg.


India exported about 10 million eggs per day last year, but now exports have greatly tumbled to 2.5 million eggs, Desai said.


A slowing Indian economy is also hitting demand for poultry products as people cut spending by consuming less meat, Soundarajan said.


India is the world's second largest producer of eggs and the third largest producer of broiler chicken, according to NECC.


US$1= Rs46.75 (Dec 22)

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