Poultry industry neglected : NECC

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Pune, Feb 29 (UNI) The poultry industry continues to be neglected and should have been treated on par with agriculture, Chairman, National Egg Coordinating Committee, Anuradha Desai said today.

Reacting to the proposals in the Union Budget for 2008-09, Desai said the Finance Minister has announced a number of incentives and concessions to the agricultural sector, the most important one being 100 per cent waiver of loans and interest to farmers, holding upto 2 hectares, and a 25 per cent rebate for one-time-settlement for farmers holding more than 2 hectares.

Together, these are expected to cost the Government a whopping Rs 60,000 crore. This is a welcome and much needed relief to the debt-ridden farmers and, perhaps, necessary to boost the growth of agricultural sector, Desai said in a statement.

But the Poultry industry was hoping for a similar relief to poultry farmers, who are facing the worst crisis in 30 years. Like Agriculture, poultry farming is also an important food production sector, which produces the cheapest source of animal protein and other essential nutrients for mass consumption, and there is no reason why it should not be treated at par with agriculture, especially when the Government considers poultry as part of agriculture.

For the past three years, poultry industry has been facing one crisis after another. After the first outbreak of Bird Flu in 2006, the industry suffered a loss of Rs 11,000 crore due to fall in farm-gate prices and suspension of exports. Before the industry could recover from this setback, maize prices increased from Rs 500-525 per quintal to Rs.900 and in some places even to Rs 1000 i.e. almost 100 per cent increase over the previous year - mainly due to forward trading, exports and speculation by traders, she said.

And now, due to Bird Flu in West Bengal and consequent ban on movement of eggs into West Bengal and North East, leading to surplus in other markets, industry has incurred a loss of at least Rs.3,000 crore. Bird Flu occurred only in backyard farms, which account for 2-3 per cent of the industry.

More than 90 per cent of poultry farmers are small and marginal farmers, solely dependant on poultry for their living. Because of the above mentioned reasons, these farmers are on the verge of losing their livelihood, and 40-50 per cent of the industry may have to be closed down, leading to an acute shortage of eggs and chicken, and ultimately, the consumers will have to pay a higher price.

Such a setback to the industry would jeopardize not only the livelihood of 3.2 million people dependant on poultry, but also the 2.0 crore maize farmers and 4 million soya bean farmers, as poultry industry consumes more than 85 per cent of maize production and 50 per cent of soya meal production.

'Now when the poultry farmers are facing the worst crisis, farmers desperately need and deserve a helping hand from the Government', Desai added.

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