Pune: Poultry farmers ‘refuse to let Muslim drivers enter’, industry faces supply chain disruption
After a disastrous March, when rumours about links between poultry products and the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak saw sales plummet, the industry is now facing another issue: farmers refusing to allow pick-up vehicles enter villages to transport market-ready birds.
Poultry farms ‘place’ one-day-old chicks with farmers, who raise them for the next 40-45 days. The farmers are provided with necessary feed, supplements are raising charges by poultries, which then sell these birds to retail traders, who send drivers to lift the birds directly from the farmer’s coop. These drivers, in turn, transport the birds to retail sellers of chicken in urban or semi-urban areas, who sell freshly-slaughtered chicken to the customers.
Over the last one week, the number of COVID-19 cases has increased across India and hundreds of them have been linked to a congregation of religious group Tablighi Jamaat in Delhi’s Nizamuddin, which has emerged as a hotspot for the disease. Pune district authorities have now launched a massive operation to identify people who had attended the gathering in mid-March, to test them for the virus.
According to poultry industry insiders, since the Tablighi Jamaat and the cases linked to it started making news, they have started facing resistance from farmers who have refused to allow drivers, many of whom are Muslims, to come to their fields. These incidents have been reported mainly from Nashik, Ahmednagar, talukas of Indapur and Junnar region of Pune district.
This resistance comes even as the industry reels from a drastic dip in consumption as the result of a misinformation campaign early in March, which had linked the virus with poultry meat and eggs.
Meanwhile, there has been a steady increase in farmgate prices of chicken, which had bottomed out in March. Currently, most poultry farms are commanding a price of Rs. 71-72 per kg rate for their market-ready birds.
Prasanna Pedgaonkar, general manager of Pune-headquartered poultry chain Venkateshwara Hatcheries Limited, said this was because of a supply-demand mismatch. “Due to the crisis of the last one-and-a-half months, many poultry farms have ceased their operations and that’s why there is a supply side crunch,” he said.
While consumption was at 50-60 per cent of usual levels, production was dropping. “We feel prices will remain stable,” Pedgaonkar said.