Lockdown brings the poultry industry to a standstillChicken farmers destroy thousands of birds for lack of feed and sales.
Poultry farmer Karna Bogati was forced to destroy 1,500 chickens as he wasn't able to feed or sell them. The 41-year-old entrepreneur, whose farm is located at Chunnikhel, Kapan, said that his 2,000 birds were 53 days ready for the market when the lockdown happened. He was able to sell 400 of them while 100 birds remain on the farm.
“I am going to suffer a loss amounting to Rs700,000-800,000 from the current batch which includes production costs,” he said. Bogati said he owes Rs1.5 million in bank loans which he borrowed for operating capital.
“It is good that the government decided to put the country under lockdown in a situation like this, but it has created a big problem for farmers like us,” he added.
Another farmer Nabin Karki lost 1,000-1,200 birds out of the 4,200 he owned after not being able to buy medicines and feed for them.
He requires eight to nine sacks of feed daily for his chickens, but he can manage only three to four sacks. The lockdown resulted in losses totalling Rs600,000-700,000, said Karki who runs a farm at Sana Gaun, Lalitpur.
He has not bought new chicks, and he has not heard about any support or relief package from the government for small entrepreneurs like him.
As the country is in lockdown and transportation has come to a complete halt, small poultry entrepreneurs like Bogati and Karki are facing tough times.
Chicken farmers are not only unable to ship their products to market, they cannot get feed for their flock.
Most cold stores are closed as people are confined to their homes, reducing demand for poultry across the country.
Kathmandu is the largest market for chicken meat, and business has plunged by 90-95 percent as everybody is grounded, said Bishnu Khadka, coordinator of the National Poultry Entrepreneur Struggle Committee.
“Many poultry farmers in the Tarai destroyed their flocks after not being able to ship them to Kathmandu or sell them locally."
According to Khadka, farmers in Sarlahi buried 9,000 chickens, and many other farmers were compelled to do the same, but the exact numbers are yet to come.
Farmers in Dhangadhi are trying to unload their inventories by offering live chickens for Rs25 per bird weighing 3 kg, he added.
Many poultry farmers have not been able to add new chicks as most of the hatcheries are closed.
Analysts expect a severe shortage leading to prices shooting up several fold after 40-45 days as many poultry have not added new chicks. “Only 1 percent of the farmers have added new chicks,” he said.
The chicken business has been at a complete standstill for the past 11 days with almost all cold stores and retail meat shops in the valley shuttered, he said.
The government said that vehicles carrying livestock would be allowed on the streets and meat shops would be permitted to open, but it has not happened. “Lack of coordination between the various levels of government created difficulties to run our business,” he said.
Banshi Sharma, director general of the Department of Livestock Services, said that poultry farmers would have extra stocks of feed. The government has also listed transportation of feed, eggs and livestock as essential services.
“The government plans to provide a relief package to livestock entrepreneurs, but this will be possible only after the lockdown is lifted and we can get the exact data from farmers,” said Sharma.
“About 20-25 percent of the small poultry farmers are on the verge of leaving the business due to the current situation,” said Khadka.
The committee is collecting statistics from across the country to find out the amount of losses suffered by poultry farmers, said Khadka.
According to the committee, there are more than 500,000 small poultry entrepreneurs in the country. They keep 2,000-2,500 chickens each; and it costs Rs600,000-700,000 to produce a batch, said the committee.