The indefinite strike called by the Kerala poultry traders association has left the state in a meat crisis. Kerala was already dealing with a shortage and soaring prices of beef and now chicken has gone off the shelf post Goods and Services Tax rollout.
Traders announced an indefinite strike after Kerala Finance Minister Dr T M Thomas Isaac asked for prices on chicken to be capped at Rs 87 per kg. While traders imposed a tax of 14.5 percent before GST, the new tax regime abolishes the same. The state government is compelled to force traders to sell chicken for not more than Rs 87 per kg. Before GST, chicken was being sold at Rs 110 to 140 per kg depending on the supply and location in Kerala.
While Thomas Isaac set Rs 87 as the maximum cap, the poultry industry has refused to sell meat below Rs 100 per kg. Despite a round of talks on Sunday, no consensus was achieved following which traders called for a strike. All chicken stalls across the state will remain shut starting Monday for an indefinite period of time.
While GST cut down taxes on chicken, traders in Kerala increased prices to maintain profit by almost Rs 40 per kg. Opposing the same, Finance Minister Issac had warned traders to not sell the meat above Rs 87 per kg. Calling the pricing unsustainable and untenable, traders have gone on a strike.
Traders allege that the government is being unreasonable with the price cap. "The price that the government is suggesting covers production alone with no consideration for upkeep, transport, trade and cleaning process. Traders should not be depicted as extortionists," said statements from Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samiti.
The strike comes as a further disappointment to Kerala that was already apprehensive about the centre's new notification banning cattle ban for slaughter. Kerala is a major beef-consumer state and the order had resulted in a shortage of beef as well as a spike in prices. Chicken too, has now, gone off the shelf with traders calling for a protest.