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Dilemma of poultry farmers




  • The poultry sector is one of the significant segments of the agriculture sector in which about 15 million people are engaged directly and indirectly. At present investment in this sector is around Rs200 billion. This sector has shown an annual growth of 8-10 per cent. But this vibrant growth seems to be at the cost of the interest of small farmers. Poultry farms are now being set up by big investors in closed sheds and houses ventilated round-the-clock through fans and coolers, posing a threat to …

    The poultry sector is one of the significant segments of the agriculture sector in which about 15 million people are engaged directly and indirectly. At present investment in this sector is around Rs200 billion. This sector has shown an annual growth of 8-10 per cent. But this vibrant growth seems to be at the cost of the interest of small farmers. Poultry farms are now being set up by big investors in closed sheds and houses ventilated round-the-clock through fans and coolers, posing a threat to subsistence farming. The subsistence farming is now becoming a job without profit. Small farmers are facing losses due to high cost of production and low prices of birds in the market.
    In subsistence farming, the rate of mortality and cost of production is higher than farming in controlled shed. Normally, in uncontrolled shed, the cost of production of one kg live broiler is about Rs75 while average wholesale rate at farm is around Rs57. The market rate fluctuation is a threat to subsistence poultry farming. The per kg price of live broiler at farm normally fluctuate between Rs40 and Rs80. The demand and supply mechanism for fixing the market rate is just a killing principle for small farmers. It is not a proper way to announce rates of poultry for sustainable subsistence farming. It is a common perception among small farmers that influential and big farmers manipulate the market prices to take advantage of high prices. Whatever the reason, it can be safely stated that fluctuation in prices of live bird is the significant factor in losses to small farmers.
    The second reason for losses is the fluctuation in the rates of one-day-old chicks. Due to big losses at the farmers end, the demand for one-day-old chicks often gets disturbed which causes wide fluctuation in rates of one-day-old chicks. Surprisingly, during one month, fluctuation in the rates of one-day-old chicks could be observed between Rs5 and Rs30. The farmers who purchase chicks at high prices are more susceptible to losses. The third most significant factor in determining the profit or loss is the skyrocketing prices of poultry feed. More than 70 per cent production cost for poultry is incurred in feed prices. Poultry feed prices have gone up by 22 per cent in 2007-2008. In coming days, it is expected that feed prices would increase further. Wheat and rice are the two major poultry feed ingredients. Wheat contributes about 50 per cent in the manufacturing of various types of poultry feeds for layers, broilers and breeders while rice is the major ingredient. Soybean constitutes 25 per cent of the poultry diet. Its price has increased by 100 per cent in one year.
    The skyrocketing prices of these ingredients are adversely affecting the poultry feed prices, which would ultimately increase the production cost of poultry and may force small and subsistence farmers to close their business. The government has allowed import of vaccines, feed additives and coccidiostats used in poultry feed manufacturing at zero per cent customs duty but it is not sure that these incentives would positively affect feed prices. Another problem faced by subsistence farmers is the adulteration in feed and veterinary medicine. There is a lack of feed quality control due absence of relevant law. To maximise profit, toxic and sub-standard ingredients are used in feed manufacturing resulting in higher mortality rate. Similarly adulterated medicines exacerbate mortality rate at poultry farms.
    In spite of vaccination and treatment, various diseases are causing high mortality of chicks and birds. Rumors and real outbreak of bird flue is also a serious threat to small and subsistence farmers. Pakistan?s first H5N1 cases were detected in March 2006 at two chicken farms in the NWFP. The latest bird flue outbreak was reported by the government official in Swabi district last week killing thousands of birds. The subsistence unhygienic farms are more susceptible to disease and under threat of economic losses. The farmers should be aware of the latest farming techniques and principles of poultry business. The subsistence farm should never be engulfed by commercialised and mechanised trend. The government should bring subsistence farmers in the mainstream of technologically-advanced poultry farming by educating them in farm management practices.
    Private sector especially feed mills and hatcheries recruit their own extension staff for promotion and extension activities. Although technical and extension field staff is mainly intended to promote sales of the feed mills and hatcheries? products, it also helps boost the poultry industry. Involvement of public sector is revealed by the research study recently conducted in Faisalabad district. None of the sampled farmers reported the activities of public poultry extension agent. There is a need to fill the vacant position in livestock department and implementation of a strict monitoring policy.
    The poultry sector also needs attention to educate the farmers. The government and the private sector should encourage and upgrade poultry industry. Some appreciable efforts have been made by the Smeda and Livestock Department to develop the poultry industry. If the government addresses the causes of losses to subsistence farmers on priority basis and arranges a strategic set-up to educate farmers, it would ensure the streamlining of the subsistence and small poultry farmers in the modern poultry industry.
    By: Shoukat Ali

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