Madurai

Broiler farmers find the going tough

All for a pittance: Poultry farmers, who rear broiler chicks on contract for private companies, demand for higher wages from the firms. A scene at T. Kovilpatti near Tiruvadavur in Madurai district.   | Photo Credit: R. Ashok

A. Palaniammal, a 33-year-old resident of T. Kovilpatti near Tiruvadavur in Madurai district, has abandoned paddy and jasmine cultivation around seven years back due to water shortage. “I became a poultry farmer and started rearing chicks on a contract basis for private companies, as this venture appeared to be highly lucrative,” she said.

However, my hopes were dashed as the business was not profitable and I found it difficult to repay bank loans, she said. “This is mainly because of low wages paid by the companies for rearing the chicks. They pay us a pittance and it hardly covers the cost of production,” she said.

Like Ms. Palaniammal, many poultry farmers in the district, who have signed agreements with private companies for rearing broiler chicks, have a grouse against the private firms. So, farmers affiliated to Madurai District Broiler Contract Farmers’ Association have decided not to rear the next batches of chicks until the companies decide to pay decent wages, she said.

Association president M.S. Arun Prasad said the companies supplied hundreds of chicks, along with feed and medicines, which were essential for their growth. The farmers have to set up infrastructure for raising the chicks and deliver the chicken to the private companies after around 40 days. “While the cost of rearing a chicken costs around ₹11 a kg, the companies pay us only ₹4. But, on the other hand, the companies’ profit margin is up to 40%,” he said.

The cost of coconut coir,e essential for rearing the chicks, has drastically increased in the recent years, especially after the COVID-19 pandemic, said A. Manivasagam, a poultry farmer.

The farmers also have to pay for electricity, labour and water. “Most farmers have borrowed heavily for setting up the infrastructure,” said Ms. Palaniammal.

Due to poor returns, many were are unable to repay their debts, said A. Ramadoss, treasurer of the association. “The farmers reared chicks even through the COVID-19 pandemic. So the companies must increase the wages so that this business is sustainable,” he said.

Mr. Prasad said the current batch of chicks being raised by farmers would be supplied to the companies only if they paid ₹12 a kg. “But the farmers will not rear the next batch of chickens unless the companies paid ₹15 a kg,” he added.

Farmers from Dindigul, Theni and other southern districts have also decided not to rear the next batch of chicks unless the companies paid higher wages.

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2020 4:21:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/broiler-farmers-find-the-going-tough/article32975297.ece

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