(Dr. Syed Mohammad Altaf Gilani, 45, was born in Srinagar. He attended the DAV School, Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar, and graduated from the Islamia College of Science and Commerce, Srinagar and the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, SKUAST-K, Srinagar, and ICAR, New Delhi. Dr. Gilani is a Veterinarian (Poultry Consultant), working with the J&K Animal Husbandry Department. In his leisure time, he enjoys Writing, Watching Hollywood Classics.)
Fighting Exploitation in the Poultry Trade
The poultry industry in this part of the world is in the process of taking shape. The consumption is huge and the growth is upbeat. Though still unorganized, if tackled timely and effectively and given an appropriate course can figure as the corner stone of the economy and a founding of a vibrant and versatile industry.
At the moment, the sector is being dominated by the commercial broiler farms being established in every nook and corner of the Valley. About 4500 in number, these farms are responsible for rearing of 300 lakh viable broilers per year. Another 150 lakh broilers and culls are being imported from outside the State. The overwhelmingly non-vegetarian eating habits of the Valley dwellers contribute towards the using up of more than one lakh birds on daily basis.
Under the present system, a poultry entrepreneur puts in lots of efforts in rearing of the stocks as per the technical norms. The maintenance of proper space, temperature, ventilation, biosecurity, medication and vaccination is being undertaken appropriately besides feeding and provision of ample potable water for the birds. A close rapport is being maintained with the experts of the Animal Husbandry Department for tackling any eventuality of a disease outbreak. When the stocks attain the marketable weight, the real ordeal of the entrepreneur begins.
Although the imports of the commercial broiler stocks are dwindling, the impact on the local market is huge. The poultry dealers who act as middlemen between the farmers and the retailers spoil the whole broth. Their greed to earn more bucks in a short time prefer outside poultry stocks than the local ones. Reason being that the stocks transported from outside are under starvation during transshipment and as soon as unloaded into their godowns are fed heavily for the quick weight gains as these starved birds eat full. The consumer gets cheated when the retailer weighs the bird on the weighing scale and pays unknowingly for the feed in the crop at the rate of the live bird.
Sometimes there arises a situation when the dealer has to lift the birds from the local farmers and the trading between the two parties shall throw sufficient light on the exploitation by the middlemen. While negotiating the rates, the dealer offers at least Rs. 5 per kilo gram of live broiler less than the rates at which he can get the same commodity from the dealer importing from outside the State. Another condition is being put around by the dealer that the birds shall be lifted in the morning only if kept off-feed and off-water overnight. While weighing the consignment, still a deduction of 1 per cent in the total weight is being made on the pretext of weight loss. Interestingly, the poultry farmer does not get cash for its produce but is presented a post-dated cheque having a minimum of 15 to 20 days for its encashment in contrast to the cash transaction with the outside dealer. As soon as the consignment is collected from the farm, it is delivered to the retailers on the same average weight. The dealer and the retailer have nothing at stake and still take the lion’s share while as the poultry entrepreneur has everything at stake and only gets peanuts, that too when the rate is favorable and the stocks give their optimum production.
The middlemen make it sure to grab maximum benefit from the trade at the cost of the poor farmer and the consumer. To make it more obscure, the Department of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution System, Jammu and Kashmir fixes the rates of the poultry and poultry products on the basis of the mandi rates prevalent at the time in Delhi and Punjab which puts another back-breaking burden on the farmer and the middlemen enjoy the swag. The state of affairs is flattering for the middleman and the retailer while as for the poultry entrepreneur and the consumer, it is very much inauspicious.
Having dealt with in detail the obstacles confronting the poultry development in the Valley, it is justifiable to present here the solutions to the predicament:
1. An extensive awareness campaign by the Animal Husbandry Department for educating the farmers about the setting up of their own retail sales outlets where about 20 per cent of their produce can be marketed directly.
2. To facilitate the sustenance of the poultry industry in the Valley, the experts of the Animal Husbandry Department need to be empowered for fixing the whole sale and retail prices of the live and the dressed poultry as per the production cost.
3. Hygienically dressed and chilled poultry meat needs to be popularized among the masses by launching an awareness campaign involving the health experts and religious scholars.
4. The dependence on imports of poultry and poultry based inputs has to be reduced by commencing the establishment of Breeding Farms, Hatcheries and Feed Manufacturing Plants in the private sector. Animal Husbandry Department has to act as a facilitator and assist in dissemination of related information to the prospective entrepreneurs.
5. Establishment of Poultry Mandis on the analogy of Fruit Mandis at every District Headquarter where the farmers and retailers shall be handling the market directly.
The suggestions put forward shall pave way for the employment generation in the poultry sector, for which the present set up in the Government is too intense, and shall have long bearing significance in the establishment of an organized industry for the benefit of all the stakeholders.