More than a month since Maharashtra reported its first case of bird flu, chicken prices continue to be low, although consumption levels, the industry says, is back to normal. This is mostly because of farmers resorting to distress sales to clear their inventory.
This comes at a time when the industry normally reports better prices, thanks to increased consumption in winter. This December, the average farm gate prices (the price at which farmers sell their market ready 2-2.5 kg birds) was Rs 81 per kg, which dipped to Rs 60/kg in January. Prices continue to remain low in February at Rs 56/per kg.
In January, consumption had dropped as people avoided poultry meat and eggs over bird flu fears, although properly cooked meat and eggs are completely safe. After that severe dip, consumption has picked up in Maharashtra, but prices continue to be low. “We hope that prices will start rising after a fortnight or so once the excess placement of stock – caused by farmers trying to sell off before prices dip further – is exhausted,” a source said.
The first case of bird flu was reported in Maharashtra on January 8, when some poultry birds in Parbhani tested positive for the virus. This was the first time the state had reported the virus since 2006. Maharashtra had been the epicentre of the first-ever bird flu incident in the country, when egg-producing birds in Navapur taluka of Nandurbar district had reported the virus. Since then, the state had remained relatively free from incidents of the virus. However, in January, Maharashtra joined the list of 10 states that reported the disease in their avian population.
Till date, Maharashtra has reported culling of 7.12 lakh birds, and destruction of 26.03 lakh eggs and 72,974 kg of poultry feed. As many as 5.74 lakh birds were culled in Navapur taluka alone. The state government has distributed compensation worth Rs 338.13 lakh.
The bird flu crisis comes at a time when the industry is just about recovering from the drastic losses it suffered a year back at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfounded rumours had linked the spread of the disease with the consumption of poultry meat and eggs, which had seen consumption dip and a $-5 billion loss to the industry nationally.
On average, India reports consumption of 1.30 crore birds and 30 crore eggs on a daily basis.
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