Bird flu biggest threat to poultry industryPoultry farmers in Chitwan start getting anxious whenever summer comes to a close. This is because the season also brings the threat of bird flu with it.
Poultry farmers in Chitwan start getting anxious whenever summer comes to a close. This is because the season also brings the threat of bird flu with it.
Nepal has witnessed at least two major outbreaks of bird flu in the last five years, which have ended with mass culling of chicken and dumping of eggs.
“Bird flu probably poses the biggest threat to the country’s poultry industry,” said Tilchandra Bhattarai, former president of the Chitwan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI).
The history of modern poultry farming in Nepal dates back to December 1960 when Central Hatchery was established in Parwanipur of Bara district. Gradually, people in other parts of the country, including Chitwan, started embracing poultry farming by rearing chicken in very basic coops.
Soon, improved technology was transferred to the country, modernising the poultry sector and raising income of people involved in poultry farming.
“Poultry farming was conducted at a commercial level in Chitwan only in the early 1980s,” Shankar Kandel, central president of the Nepal Poultry Entrepreneurs Forum, said. “Since then the industry has come a long way.”
Over the years, poultry farming has expanded not only in urban centres of Chitwan, but in remote areas like Sidhi and Shaktikhor, attracting investment from as low as Rs100,000 to as much as Rs1 billion.
Today, Chitwan is the largest producer of poultry products in Nepal and has earned the moniker of ‘poultry district’.
The country’s poultry sector has attracted investment of around Rs80 billion so far and accounts for 3.5 percent of the gross domestic product.
Of this investment, Rs35 billion has gone into poultry businesses in Chitwan alone, raising the contribution of Chiwan’s poultry sector in the country’s total economic output to 1.5 percent.
In spite of dramatic growth witnessed by the sector in around three-and-a-half decades, the spectre of bird flu epidemic wiping off their investment continues to haunt those engaged in poultry business.
Worse, even the poultry insurance policies do not cover losses inflicted by bird flu epidemic, said Bhattarai, ex-president of the CCCI, which has been conducting awareness programmes on poultry farming in the district since 1995.
“Because of this, farmers do not show interest in purchasing poultry insurance product at all,” Bhattarai said, adding, “This has hit small-scale poultry farmers the most and those who have acquired loans from banks to set up their poultry businesses.”
This, according to Bhattarai, calls for the need to establish a specialised laboratory capable of detecting flu outbreak and catering services to contain spread of the disease.