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COVID-19 scare: poultry sector in Maharashtra lose ₹150 cr. in a fortnight

Concerned: (From left) Dr. Prasanna Pedgaonkar, general manager, Venky’s, Dr. B.V. Tandale, scientist and Sachindra Pratap Singh, commissioner, Animal Husbandry at a press conference in Pune on Thursday.

Concerned: (From left) Dr. Prasanna Pedgaonkar, general manager, Venky’s, Dr. B.V. Tandale, scientist and Sachindra Pratap Singh, commissioner, Animal Husbandry at a press conference in Pune on Thursday.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Animal Husbandry Department, scientists appeal to ignore rumours, wrong propaganda

Maharashtra’s poultry industry has suffered an estimated loss of at least ₹150 crore in the past fortnight ever since rumours linking COVID-19 (coronavirus) to poultry have surfaced, authorities said on Thursday. Meanwhile, the State Animal Husbandry Department, along with scientists from the National Institute of Virology (NIV), jointly appealed to people to not believe unscientific propaganda.

Experts said the rumours have also taken a toll on farmers cultivating maize and soybean who are dependent on poultry, as they were enduring heavy losses.

“The State’s daily chicken requirement is 3400-3500 metric tonnes. When these rumours started surfacing on social media early this month, the requirement of chicken in the State declined precipitously from an average 3,000 metric tonnes to 2,000 metric tonnes in less than two weeks,” said Dr. Prasanna Pedgaonkar, general manager at Venky's, India's biggest poultry producer.

He said the poultry farmers and the industry in the State were enduring daily losses of ₹10-11 crore for the past fortnight.

“While the month is not yet over, we estimate losses at ₹150 crore. But the financial toll apart, we are worried about consumer confidence in chicken consumption at the moment,” Dr. Pedgaonkar said.

However, following corrective measures to rein in the rumours, with explanations from scientists and the Centre’s notification that COVID has no relation to chicken consumption, the poultry consumption figure in the State, which had declined to 2,000 metric tonnes, has risen to 2,400 metric tonnes in the past few days.

Maharashtra has 50 lakh maize and 57 lakh soybean farmers dependent on the poultry industry. “They constitute 12% of the country’s farmer population. Thus, whenever the poultry industry faces a calamity of this sort, it has a cascading effect on the agriculture sector as well,” Dr. Pedgaonkar said.

He said the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of maize had crashed to ₹1300 per quintal from ₹1,700 per quintal since the rumours linking chicken consumption to COVID-19 began surfacing. “The livelihood of several farmers depends of poultry including those cultivating maize and soybean as the poultry industry constitutes one of the processing industries of Indian agriculture. The question of financial losses apart, the need of the hour is to regain the confidence of the customer in poultry meat,” he said.

The impact of the rumours would vary across States, depending on the food habits in each region, he said. “Maharashtra has 60% non-vegetarians while some southern states have more than 90% non-vegetarians. So, the impact on the poultry industry will naturally differ from place to place,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sachindra Pratap Singh, Commissioner, Animal Husbandry, said poultry products were safe for consumption and urged people not to believe in wrong propaganda.

“Chicken consumption was safe yesterday, is safe today and will continue to be so. The moment we came to know of such rumours, we registered a case with the Pune cyber police and began awareness campaigns. The novel coronavirus (nCOV) is transmitted from person to person and poultry species has no role in it,” he said.

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Printable version | Apr 8, 2020 8:20:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/covid-19-scare-poultry-sector-in-maharashtra-lose-150-cr-in-a-fortnight/article30875334.ece

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