Kerala

Duck farmers in Kerala in deep trouble due to bird flu outbreak, seek govt. help

Various infections and floods have already damaged duck farmers’ prospects in Kuttanad.   | Photo Credit: P.R. SURESH

The outbreak of avian influenza (H5N8) in Kuttanad Kerala is set to push duck farmers in the region into deep trouble.

Watch | All about the bird flu outbreak in India
 

The duck farmers, who have seen major setbacks in recent years in the form of bird flu outbreaks in 2014 and 2016, floods and recurring bouts of bacterial infections, fear that the latest outbreak would create lasting damage.

According to the Kerala Animal Husbandry Department, around 28,000 ducks perished in the district in the last two weeks, with another 34,602 birds (a majority of them ducks) set to be culled to check the spread of the disease.

With the pain of the devastation caused by the past bird outbreaks still fresh in the minds of farmers, they have urged the government to initiate steps for compensation. “Ducks in my farm started to show symptoms of the disease on December 19, 2020. They started to die a day after. Till date, I have lost 8,670 ducks. I have suffered a loss of around ₹8 lakh,” says Samuel K., a duck farmer from Pallippad. The majority of the farmers conduct farming twice a year, especially with an eye on Christmas and Easter festivities. The outbreak is certain to reduce the demand for Kuttanadan duck, which has a pride of place on dining tables.

B. Rajasekharan, district president, Duck Farmers Association, says the farmers are staring at an uncertain future. “Duck farmers have found themselves in distress even before the latest bird flu outbreak. We have seen virus outbreaks, bacterial infections and floods devastating the sector in recent times. Several duck farmers have moved to other jobs and their number is on a downward spiral in the district,” he says.

Delayed action blamed

He says there was a delay in confirming the bird flu in ducks. “Although the farmers apprised the authorities soon after the birds started to show symptoms of the disease, it took around two weeks to confirm avian influenza. This shows the lackadaisical attitude of the government towards the duck farmers and the sector,” says Mr. Rajasekharan, adding that the government failed to compensate the farmers properly for their losses in the past.

After the outbreak in 2014, some three lakh ducks were culled in Kuttanad. More than seven lakh ducks were culled as part of containment operations in Alappuzha and Kottayam districts in 2016. Following the previous bird flu outbreaks, the government had paid ₹100 for ducks that were less than two months old and ₹200 for those older than two months as compensation to the farmers

Santhosh Kumar, District Animal Husbandry Officer, says a decision on providing compensation to the owners of culled birds will be taken at the government level.

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 11:55:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/duck-farmers-in-deep-trouble-seek-govt-help/article33495977.ece

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