COVID-19 scare hits poultry business

‘Chicken consumption has come down by about 30% leaving farmers worried’

February 28, 2020 12:55 am | Updated 12:55 am IST - HYDERABAD

FILE PHOTO: Chickens are seen in a truck at a poultry market in Mumbai, India, June 1, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Chickens are seen in a truck at a poultry market in Mumbai, India, June 1, 2015. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

The scare of COVID-19 and spread of rumours on social media linking chicken to the deadly virus has taken a huge toll on the unsuspecting poultry industry and farmers.

Rumour mills

Many people across the country, apparently scared of the rumours doing the rounds on social media about the virus that emanated in China and fast spreading to other parts of the world, ticked off eggs and chicken from the menu at most houses.

“Chicken consumption has come down by about 30%, leaving the poultry industry and farmers worried,” said Broiler Integration Coordination Committee member Ram Reddy. With fall in sales, chicken prices too declined steeply from ₹80 a kg live chicken at farm to ₹40 a kg. The production cost itself is about ₹75 a kg, bulk of it spent on feed for birds.

The poultry industry has been organising awareness campaigns and chicken and egg melas across the country to remove misconceptions regarding the deadly virus.

A practising doctor, Srinivas Raju, who has a breeder farm, said that COVID-19 would affect only mammals and not birds. “Linking chicken consumption with COVID-19 is a far-fetched and irrational notion. Moreover, the Indian style of cooking process at hot temperatures will destroy any bacteria or virus. Eggs and chicken are good sources of protein and please do eat them,” he advised.

General manager of Venkateswara Hatcheries Group K.G. Anand said that the Indian government and WHO stated that chicken and eggs were safe to be eaten and COVID-19 would not spread by eating them.

“Now, consumption is slowly improving though chicken is still under-priced at ₹50 a kg. We hope consumption and prices will be back to normal in three to four weeks,” he said.

Poultry farmers suffered losses whenever a scare was created following an outbreak of an epidemic. The industry would mount a campaign to clear misconceptions. It happened with the bird flu epidemic, later Chikungunya fever, though it has nothing to do with chicken.

Chicken and egg mela

This time too, the Telangana Poultry Breeders’ Association, Telangana Poultry Federation, National Egg Coordination Committee and All India Poultry Development and Service Pvt. Ltd., with more than 25,000 members, mostly small and marginal farmers, got together to organise a chicken and egg mela at People’s Plaza on Necklace Road here on Friday to create awareness on consumption of eggs and chicken. The mela will be on from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Ministers to take part

“We are serving free chicken and egg dishes to general public who come to the mela along with entertainment programmes. Several ministers, including Industries Minister K.T. Rama Rao, Health Minister Eatala Rajender, Animal Husbandry Minister Talasani Srinivas Yadav, Agriculture Minister Niranjan Reddy, physicians, and celebrities, among others, would attend the mela, and try the egg and chicken dishes to boost the confidence of general public,” he said.

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