Pune: Consumption levels return to normal, but overproduction keeps chicken prices low

On January 8, the state reported its first case of bird flu when some poultry birds in Parbhani tested positive for the virus.

MORE THAN a month after Maharashtra reported its first case of bird flu, ex-farm gate prices of chicken continue to be low although consumption levels have returned to normal. According to industry experts, this is mostly due to higher than expected production with farmers resorting to distress sales to clear their inventory.

On January 8, the state reported its first case of bird flu when some poultry birds in Parbhani tested positive for the virus. It was the first time the state had reported the virus since 2006. Incidentally, the state had been the epicentre of the first-ever bird flu incident in the country when layer (egg producing) birds in Navapur taluka of Nandurbar district reported the virus. Since then, the state had been relatively incident-free. After January, however, Maharashtra has joined the list of 10 states that have reported the disease in their avian population.

To date, Maharashtra has reported culling of 7.12 lakh birds, 26.03 lakh eggs and 72,974 kg of poultry feed. As many as 5.74 lakh birds were culled in Navapur taluka of Nandurbar district alone. The state government has distributed compensation worth Rs 338.13 lakh.

The cases have come at a time when the industry normally reports better prices because of increased consumption. So, in December, average farm gate prices (the price at which farmers sell their market-ready 2 to 2.5 kg birds) was Rs 81 per kg, which dipped to Rs 60 in January. Prices continue to remain low in February at Rs 56 per kg. This is mainly because people are skipping the consumption of poultry and eggs, although when properly cooked they are completely safe to eat.

After a severe dip in January, consumption has picked up in the state but prices continue to be low. Industry insiders said this was due to overproduction, where farmers have tried finishing their pipeline before prices dip further. “We are hopeful that prices will start rising after a fortnight or so once the excess placement is exhausted,” they said. On an average, India reports consumption of 1.3 crore birds and 30 crore eggs daily.

This crisis has hit just when the industry is recovering from drastic losses suffered a year ago at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rumours linked the spread of the viral infection with the consumption of poultry meat and eggs, which reported a dip in consumption and losses worth $5 billion to the industry nationally. While consumption has picked up, a production dip of 25 per cent in the country has kept the supply tight.

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