The All India Poultry Breeders Association (AIPBA) has said that consumption of poultry products has not been hit so far even as several states have sounded an alert to contain the H5N8 virus strain of bird flu. The Centre has issued a bird flu alert in several states such as Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh in the wake of the sudden death of birds in large numbers.
Suresh Chitturi, vice-chairman, AIPBA and chairman, International Egg Commission, said that the consumption of poultry products has not been impacted so far. “We have to wait and watch and see how this is being projected. The association has approached the government to issue a clarification in this regard,” he said. “Normally state governments have to compensate farmers for culling birds. But this does not happen. If the government offers compensation, farmers will remain alert and report cases to the government. India also does not vaccinate the birds unlike other nations,” Chitturi said.
He pointed out that there is just one laboratory in the country in Bhopal that conducts tests and that takes at least 15 days. There should be at least one laboratory per state, he said. Vasant Kumar Shetty, Poultry Farmers and Breeders Association, Maharashtra, said that production in the sector is 70 % of pre-Covid levels and, therefore, sales may not be hit badly. “Rates could, however, shake up by 5-10% and consumption could also be reduced by 5-10%,” he said.
Prices are currently at Rs 80-85 per kg at the farm gate level. The government has issued an advisory and no cases have been reported in the poultry sector in the state so far, he added. So far, the National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, a nodal body for testing the disease, has not issued any warning, officials said. The Maharashtra government has also issued an advisory to those in the poultry business and consumers of non-vegetarian food not to panic.
At the beginning of the lockdown last year, the poultry industry had faced huge losses after social media posts linked the spread of the virus with poultry birds. Meanwhile, Shandilya Giriraj Singh, minister for fisheries, animal husbandry & dairying, has tweeted urging people not to panic and cook meat and eggs properly. The Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying, government of India, has also set up a control room in New Delhi to keep watch on the situation and to take stock on daily basis of preventive and control measures undertaken by state authorities.
“In view of a threat of a global outbreak of AI, the Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying (DAHD) had prepared an action plan in 2005 which was revised in 2006, 2012, 2015 and 2021 for the guidance of state government for prevention, control and containment of avian influenza in the country,” the government said in a statement. Other states have been requested to keep a vigil on any unusual mortality amongst birds and to report immediately to take necessary measures.