20th Mar. 2006: New Delhi/Ranchi - The National Egg Co-ordination Committee (NECC) has estimated that India's poultry industry is losing 4.5 million dollars a day (Rs.200 crore) owing to bird flu fears.
NECC Chairperson Anuradha Desai has expressed her concern over the loses faced by the farm workers, farmer and their families, who are very much or completely dependent on the industry for their livelihood.
“The bird flu scare has resulted in the collapse of egg and chicken market. The farm-gate price of egg and chicken has dropped 15 to 20 per cent of the production cost. Millions of farmers, farm workers and their families are losing their means of livelihood,” Desai said in a statement released here.
“The industry has suffered a Rs 7,000 crore loss (1.5 billion dollars) till now and is still loosing Rs 200 crore every day,” she added.
She further said that although the international health organisations like WHO have assured that eating properly cooked chickens and eggs cuts the risk, lack of consumer education and food safety awareness among consumers was hampering the use of these products.
The Indian poultry industry employs or sustains nearly three million people most of whom live in rural areas. In addition, about 15 million agricultural farmers who grow maize, soyabean and other important raw materials for poultry feed, are also dependent on this industry as 80 per cent of the poultry industry's turn-over, goes into feeding chicken.
Urging for the government’s help in spreading awareness and avoiding panic among the consumers, Desai said that it was ‘ironic’ that the fate of the large sector in which livelihoods of millions of persons are involved was being decided by the report and judgement of just one lab and one person.
She also sought the media’s help in facilitating the recovery of the industry.
Meanwhile, the industry’s tough times has not come to end even after the massive bird culling in Maharashtra, as the panic also gripped some other parts of the country following the death of chickens under mysterious circumstances in the tribal dominated Khunti area in Jharkhand, which is 40 kilometres away from state capital Ranchi.
Local have said that birds have started dying all of a sudden, in most households.
In Khunti and Ghoti, poultry owners said their chickens were dying even as officials did not confirm bird flu but said that they were conducting tests and waiting for results.
In Maharashtra, over 75,000 birds have been culled following a second outbreak of the deadly disease. The latest outbreak—in backyard poultry in Maharashtra’s Jalgaon district -- was the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of bird flu, but it has not infected people so far.
Samples from unaffected poultry elsewhere in Maharashtra were being collected to ensure bird flu had not spread beyond Jalgaon.
Jalgaon is just 200 kilometres away from Navapur, where India reported its first case of the H5N1 strain in poultry last month.