Poultry farmers in distress with trade stopped dead in its tracksWithout subsidised insurance premiums and bank loans, the poultry business could collapse, chicken raisers said.
Poultry farmers in the western part of the country are in distress as trade is stopped dead in its tracks due to the nationwide lockdown which is in its sixth week.
Chicken raisers have not been able to ship their products to market for lack of transportation, and they are hurting as revenues have dried up. Losses amount to millions of rupees daily, entrepreneurs said.
"Nearly 2,500 egg farmers in Province 5 are suffering because production has outstripped sales, and unsold stocks are piling up," said Prem Hari Timilsina, president of the Province Egg Entrepreneurs Association.
“We appreciate the government's decision to confine people to their homes to save them from the deadly virus, but it should do something to address the problems of poultry farmers too,” he said.
Feed manufacturers have raised the price of their products citing a shortage of raw materials, and this has increased losses for chicken farmers because of lack of sales, he said.
“We were selling eggs for Rs11.53 each, and now we have to be happy if we get Rs6 apiece,” he said. "It is difficult to find buyers even though prices have plunged. Entrepreneurs are not able to obtain new chicks because of the lockdown."
The association has received information that around 3,000 chickens had to be destroyed in the province.
“If the government launches a relief plan to buy eggs from the farms, consumers will get protein and poultry farmers will have a market for their products,” he said.
"Chicken raisers have been proclaiming their problems to the government, but nothing has happened," he said. "If the current difficult situation prolongs, small farms could go under."
Mukti Pokhrel, owner of New Pragatisali Poultry Tatha Krishi Farm in Pyuthan, said the lockdown had resulted in piles of eggs going to waste.
Pokhrel raises 10,000 chickens on his farm. He said he had to return empty-handed after not being able to buy feed for his flock even though he scoured the entire market in Butwal. He has not been able to ship his products to other districts either.
He said it was difficult to find buyers for his eggs even at Rs1,400 per carton while he was getting Rs1,900 per carton during normal times. As a result, he is not even breaking even. The minimum salary for a worker at his farm is Rs10,000 per month
"If the government does not create a market for egg farmers and makes feed easily available, the poultry business will be in grave trouble," he said.
The feed available at home like maize does not provide the required amount of nutrition. Shortages of feed and vaccines increase the chances of chickens dying and eggs going to waste.
Pokhrel said his losses during the period of the lockdown total nearly Rs3 million. His farm produces 7,000 eggs daily which used to be supplied to Butwal and Bhairahawa. Now a carton of eggs barely fetches Rs1,200 which is not even enough to pay his workers and cover the cost of transportation.
Bhim Kaji Gurung, owner of Gurung Agriculture and Poultry, said that without subsidised insurance premiums and bank loans, the poultry business could collapse.
Farmers are facing a difficult situation because the government has not fixed the price of eggs. Due to the layers of middlemen in the supply chain, farmers are not getting a good value for their products and consumers are being forced to pay high prices, he said.
Gopal Pandey's Sangam Poultry in Dobhan contains 10,000 chickens which produce more than 9,000 eggs daily. “But I cannot sell even 5 percent of the output in the market,” he said. If the government spreads the message that eggs and chickens do not spread the coronavirus, demand would increase in the market.
Pandey employs six workers on his farm whom he pays Rs15,000 per month. As the weather has been turning hotter, the eggs cannot be stored for a long period. He is looking at huge losses because there is no technology in the country to produce any food item from them.
Lalit GC, a central member of the Bardia Egg Entrepreneur and Nepal Egg Production Association, owns 4,500 chickens. He said he had been reducing egg production so he wouldn't be left with unsold stocks. His farm produces five crates of eggs daily, and he provides 30 grams of feed to each chicken.
Demand for eggs has dropped sharply, said Bhakta Sharma, owner of Shrijanshil Poultry Farm in Dang. Shipments to Kathmandu have also stopped, said Sharma whose farm produces 80 cartons of eggs daily.
Sharma said he spent Rs15 million on his farm, and with the investment wasted, he does not know how he is going to repay his bank loans.