In one fell swoop, COVID-19 put a spanner in the works of hatcheries. From selling thousands of chicks a day, hatcheries are selling just about a hundred due to low demand. Some even culled the chicks.
Until a few months ago, traders from Bihar and Madhya Pradesh would buy chicks from Praveen, who runs Kisan Hatchery in Naini, Prayagraj district, about 200 kilometres from state capital Lucknow. Traders from other districts in Uttar Pradesh would buy from him too. There was a time when he supplied more than 15,000 chicks every day. Now, post COVID-19 he barely manages to sell a thousand.
Although hatcheries were allowed to reopen in June this year for business after the COVID-19 lockdown, there has been dismal demand for chicks. “Before March and April, more than a hundred customers used to come to us every day. Now, hardly ten visit us. From selling fifteen to twenty thousand chicks a day, I now barely sell a thousand or two thousand,” Praveen told Gaon Connection.
There’s also the issue of increased prices of egg and chicken due to low production, which is a problem in the winter months when demand traditionally goes up. “The closure of poultry farms is the reason behind the price rise,” Ajit Singh, chief executive officer of the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), told Gaon Connection. “The farmers get new chicks in March and April, with which fresh production for October and November takes place. This time, farmers did not have the capital to restart their poultry business. Many farms culled their chicks and buried them. The production of eggs has fallen too. Prices will continue to go up till February. Poultry farmers are already suffering. Now, the consumer will suffer these high prices too,” he said.
Praveen is not alone in his predicament. The scene in the entire Naini belt is similar. From a time when they supplied huge quantities of chicks to states such as Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, traders are now reeling under the financial aftermath of Corona.
Hatcheries in Naini receive eggs from Haryana that are then hatched. Jind, Kaithal, Panipat, Kurukshetra, Gurugram and Barwala in Haryana are major egg and broiler chicken hubs, where more than 15 million chicks are reared.
Sanjay Sheoran, who runs Sheoran Hatchery in Jind district of Haryana, told Gaon Connection that most hatchers faced the same issue. “We supply chicks all over the country, but since there is no market now, we have been left in the lurch,” he added.
About 20,000 chicks used to be reared in Malkeet’s Dharamvir Poultries in Jind till March. It shut down operations in April. The pandemic and the lockdown spelt disaster for his poultry business. “In March and April, I had to sell chicks and grown birds at a lower cost,” Malkeet said, adding that Covid-19 and the lockdown had ruined his business. “It will take a long time for the poultry business to stabilise,” he said.
According to the union ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying, Andhra Pradesh is the first among the major poultry meat producing states in the country, followed by West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra.
Across several districts of Haryana, more than 250 poultry farmers are associated with Dilbagh Malik, who runs an association of poultry farmers. Most of these people have not been able to restart their poultry farm business after the lockdown. “Poultry farmers began incurring loss since March and even after all these months, we have not yet been able to recover,” Malik told Gaon Connection.
According to Poultry World, which tracks the global poultry industry, 750,000 broilers are produced every week in India. The poultry industry in India has lost four billion US dollars due to COVID-19 from February to April 2020.
According to the union ministry of fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying, the major egg producing states in the country are Andhra Pradesh (19.1 per cent), Tamil Nadu (18.2 per cent) Telangana (13.2 per cent), West Bengal (8.3 per cent and Haryana (5.2 per cent), followed by states such as Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
Things are as bad in the South too. Rajasekhara Naidu, who runs Rajasekhara Poultry Farm in Machireddigaripalle, Andhra Pradesh, told Gaon Connection that he began incurring losses since February, “My farm can hold 20,000 chicks Previously, we used to raise six batches [each batch has between four and five thousand chicks] of broilers a year. This time, only a single batch could be sold,” he added.
Prior to the lockdown, many say they had to do a distress sale of their broilers and layer hens [which produce eggs], “We could not even procure medicine from the supplier, and many chicks perished. So, production has gone down,” Naidu said.
Unable to find money to restart production, many poultry farms have shut shop. “For the last one or two years, the poultry business has been incurring losses and, Corona was the last straw. The poultry business will take a couple of years to recover,” said Ali Akbar, president of the Uttar Pradesh Poultry Association.