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India: Social media rumours impact poultry and feed sectors

As whole world is fighting the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, it is having a huge impact of Indian poultry sector that has seen a drop of almost 50% also impacting feed prices, due to false virus scare.

As per an estimate, Indian poultry & feed sector have recorded an estimated loss of USD 236 million (INR 1750 crore) from mid January to mid February. The sectors have seen a huge drop due to fake propaganda on social media, saying that coronavirus is spread through consumption of poultry products, which has been reported by various media outlets.

 Indian poultry sector employs more than 1 million farmers and contributes US$ 16.18 billion (INR 1.2 lakh crore) to the country’s GDP directly. Photo: Sam Panthaky
Indian poultry sector employs more than 1 million farmers and contributes US$ 16.18 billion (INR 1.2 lakh crore) to the country’s GDP directly. Photo: Sam Panthaky

This will have a drastic effect on the feed manufacturers - CLFMA

Speaking to All About Feed, a source at the Mumbai based Compound Feed Manufacturers Association (CLFMA) said that India’s feed manufacturers are also facing the heat of Covid-19, as poultry owners have started cancelling feed orders. This will have a drastic effect on the feed manufacturers. If this continues for more weeks, many feed plants will face closer and there will be layoffs, which will again hamper the economy, which is already showing signs of a slow down, the source added. As many poultry owners produce their own feed, they have stopped sourcing raw materials like soybean, corn from the market, impacting the farmers too.

CLFMA of India is an apex organisation recognised by livestock farmers, Central and State Governments, Government Departments, Agricultural Universities, Veterinary Colleges and National Research Institutes in the country, but also by related sectors outside the country. With over 230 members, the association represents diverse sub-sectors of animal protein value chain that includes feed manufacturing; poultry, dairy and aquaculture business; animal nutrition and health, veterinary services, machinery and equipment; processing and distribution and retailing of meat.

...the weak demand from the poultry sector has resulted in a sharp decline in feed prices too..." - Nadir Godrej, chairman of Godrej Agrovet

Commenting on what the virus can do to the feed sector; chairman of Godrej Agrovet Nadir Godrej said that the weak demand from the poultry sector has resulted in a sharp decline in feed prices too, with both soybean and maize prices falling by nearly 25% in the past 2 months.To understand the immediate challenge, All About Feed spoke to a Mumbai based poultry dealer, who said that prices have dropped to US$ 0.67 (INR50 per kg) for broiler, from US$1.88 (INR140 per kg). Poultry meat, which was selling for US$ 2.69 (INR 200 per kg) has dropped to between US $1.21 and US $ 1.34 (INR 90 and INR 100). Eggs have also dropped to between US$0.04 and USD $0.05 (INR 3 and INR 4) per egg, compared to US$0.08 and US$ 0.09 (INR 6 and INR 7) per egg recorded before the virus struck India. Besides the prices of chicken and eggs, chicken feed prices have also recorded a drop.

Bird sales drop 35 million

The poultry farmers associations in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have even lodged complaints against the rumour mongers with the cyber police. Godrej Agrovet managing director, B S Yadav said that a lot of misleading posts on social media, especially on WhatsApp, have created a false impression that humans can contract the coronavirus through chickens. Because of this, sales have fallen to around 40 million birds a week from 75 million about 4 weeks ago.

Other Indian poultry firms including Venky’s have also cited that rumours spread by social media for a fall in poultry-related sales. "This is a record fall in prices, which has hurt farmers as well, some farmers have already started to cut production, as they can’t afford animal feed and other costs of keeping a large inventory of birds," the media reported citing Yadav.

Impact on India's economy and social structure

Indian poultry sector employs more than 1 million farmers and contributes US$ 16.18 billion (INR 1.2 lakh crore) to the country’s GDP directly. The industry also provides direct benefit to more than 10 million maize and soya agriculture farmers and providing market for soya bean and maize farmers in India. The sector engages 50 million citizens in direct and indirect employment in poultry production, trade, feed, agriculture crops, logistics, and poultry based products, exports, among others.

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