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Poultry industry hit by coronavirus rumours

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, March 14 - With rumours on social media linking the coronavirus to consumption of poultry products, sale of chicken and mutton has declined in the State and the poultry industry is incurring a loss of over Rs 2 crore daily.

According to industry sources, around 500 metric tonnes of broiler chicken is consumed in Assam daily - 20 per cent of it is sold to eateries and hotels, while the remaining is sold to consumers directly.

While the cost of production per kg of broiler is round Rs 80, farmers are now being forced to sell them to middlemen at prices as low as Rs 30-35.

�This has been the trend since the last 20 days. Though consumption has gone down by around 30 per cent, the middlemen are taking advantage of the situation as products from other States � where the market has been severely hit � are coming here at extremely low prices,� the sources said.

However, despite the low prices at the source, consumers continue to pay the same price at retail outlets.

The sources pointed out that if a kg of live broiler chicken is brought from a farmer at Rs 35, it can be sold at retail at Rs 80-85. But the price of a live broiler chicken in the market continues to be Rs 120 and that of dressed Rs 200-220.

There are over 20,000 broiler farmers in the State and the number of farms is over 15,000. Sixty per cent of the farms are linked to companies and not directly connected to the market.

The rumours have affected poultry sale in other States even more. In Maharashtra, for example, the farm price of chicken was Rs 50-70, but has dropped to Rs 5-10 now. While many farmers are reportedly burying the chicken in some States, poultry from eastern States are reportedly coming to Assam.

�The middlemen are bringing chicken from West Bengal and Odisha at prices as low as Rs 5-10, which has forced the local farmers to sell their products at very low price, thereby incurring heavy losses,� the sources said.

Meanwhile, citing the outbreak of bird flu in Odisha and Kerala, poultry farmers and traders in the State have moved the Veterinary Minister seeking a ban on import of live birds from the neighbouring States.

�The uncontrolled import of live birds from neighbouring States through the Bengal border without any examination by veterinarians has posed a threat to the State�s poultry sector,� the All Assam Poultry Farmers� & Traders Association said in a letter to the State government.

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