The recent furore over the consumption of dead chicken and rotten meat has shaken the public perception in West Bengal. Many are refraining from savouring chicken and meat delicacies even in upmarket restaurants. The administration has also initiated stringent quality checking. In a recent raid in Jagannathpur in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal, atleast 19 dead chickens were spotted in a livestock van that was transporting chickens to markets in Kolkata from Baduria, North 24 Parganas, West Bengal. According to many insiders, Baduria is at the epicentre of this racket.
There are nearly 10,000 poultry farms in Baduria. Investigations have indicated that several quintals of dead chickens were being preserved with formalin and ice in many of these poultry farms and were then clandestinely supplied to Kolkata markets. According to reports, nearly 500 kgs of dead chicken meat was supplied regularly to Kolkata for the last six months. In the same period, the poultry industry suffered from rumours about Chinese plastic eggs that were allegedly being infiltrated into the Indian market. The National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), however, denied such reports.
Many farms in India breed a large number of chicks in poultry spaces that are way too small. These chicks are often injected with medicines and antibiotics in order to protect them against diseases. Sometimes, they are injected to ensure that they gain weight faster. A recent guideline issued by The World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2017 recommended reducing the use of critically important antibiotics in food-producing animals and banning their use as growth promoters. It also recommended banning the mass medicating of livestock with antibiotics to prevent diseases. The poultry industry has reported a 10% drop in consumption and sale of eggs and the sale of chicken meat has also dropped in West Bengal and Kerala owing to the dead chicken scam and due to rumours of chicken carrying the Nipah virus.
India’s poultry industry contributes about 1% of the total GDP and is observed to be growing at a healthy rate of 8-10%. Even after factoring in the recent untoward incidents in this sector in West Bengal and apprehensions in Kerala, the domestic poultry industry, comprising chiefly of broiler meat and table eggs, is expected to grow at a steady pace. According to ICRA, the healthy growth registered by the industry in the past decade has made India one of the fastest growing poultry markets in the world.
Ashish Modani, Assistant Vice President, Corporate Sector ratings, ICRA, said, “The domestic poultry industry mainly consists of broiler meat and table egg with other poultry meat forming a marginal proportion of the overall market. Based on average chick placements per month, total broiler market size is estimated at 4.2 million tonnes (carcass weight), translating into volume growth of 7% year-on-year during calendar year 2017.”
As per ICRA’s estimate, per capita meat consumption is around 3.6 kg per annum which puts total broiler meat market size at Rs. 730 billion in terms of retail price. The domestic table egg production for CY2017 is estimated at 84 billion eggs translating to a per capita egg consumption of 63 egg per annum and market size of Rs. 420 billion. The broiler volume growth is intentionally kept at manageable levels to avoid supply glut.
Challenges to the poultry industry
The poultry industry also has its share of challenges. They are listed below -
Low Productivity: The production facilities and methodologies followed by the poultry farmers in India are not at par with international standards. A majority of the poultry farms in India are open buildings with no climate control or quarantine mechanisms in place which exposes the birds to various climate variations and to potential diseases.
Lack of storage: More than 60% of broiler birds produced in India are produced in six Indian states (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana Karnataka, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu). Similarly more than 60% of eggs produced in India are produced in six states (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana Haryana, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu). Birds are currently transported alive between the states, which causes them to be transported in unhygienic conditions. Many birds are killed during transport. Lack of dry processing and cold chain facilities make it a logistical nightmare to be transporting good quality poultry produce in India.
Supply of quality feed: Soya bean and maize are widely utilised by poultry farmers in India as the main feed. These only help in fulfilling minimum nutritional requirements and do not help in rearing high quality, healthy birds. There is shortage of quality feed in the market and lack of knowledge about the benefits of using quality feeds.
Farm Management: There are no quality standards in poultry farm management in India. For the export market, Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has imposed strict quality standards and regular audits are conducted to ensure quality. However, in the domestic market, there is a lack of a comprehensive regulating authority.
Lack of processing facilities: There is a lack of dry processing capabilities in the Indian domestic poultry market. For lack of knowledge and awareness, Indian consumers prefer to go for freshly culled birds which are not processed in clean and hygienic conditions.
BE spoke to Suresh Chitturi, Managing Director, Srinivasa Farms about the poultry industry in India and about their plans to expand the poultry feed market.
Q. India’s poultry industry has transformed from a mere backyard activity into a major commercial activity. How has this transformation been possible?
A. Poultry industry was non-existent in India in the 1960s. The effort put by late Dr. B.V. Rao and Jagpati Rao in those years towards building the industry must be credited. They followed an entirely different strategy as compared to the western countries. Poultry industry has grown to such an extent because of installed efficiency and farmer focused approach of the industry. The poultry industry in India is about Rs. 1,10,000 crores. India is ranked second in egg production and fourth in chicken meat production in the world.
Q. As of 2017-18, which states accounted for high egg production and broiler meats in India?
A. Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh are the leading states in egg production whereas Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are leading states in broiler meat production.
Q. How is your company working towards expanding in poultry feed and aqua feed?
A. Our major focus is on poultry breeding and processed consumer products.
Q. You are setting up a mega food park in Andhra Pradesh. How will it work?
A. Yes. It will be one-of-a-kind food park focused on animal protein and value added products. We will be setting up egg processing, chicken processing and Ready to Eat/Cook (RTE/RTC) products in the mega food park. The food park model will work on user charges basis. The entrepreneurs who want to use facilities in the food park can avail those services by paying user charges.
Q. How has Srinivasa Farms grown over the years?
A. We have grown at a CAGR of 25% in last five years. We expect to be growing three times in next 4-5 years with the ensured expansion of our business across India.
Q. Has the consumption of poultry products lessened vis-à-vis its production?
A. No. The consumption of poultry products are growing at a healthy rate of about 10% and the market for processed and value added poultry products is growing at about 25%.
Q. There has been a huge crisis in West Bengal’s meat consumption. Did it affect the entire country’s meat consumption pattern?
A. There were some lapses in meat quality monitoring. The government could have put its foot down and made sure that whatever meat goes to market should be as per the prescribed quality standards. At this point of time, it will not be wise to comment on whether that crisis in West Bengal has impacted the consumption pattern of the entire country.
Q. What are your views regarding the rumour over plastic eggs?
A. There is no such things as plastic eggs. It is false information spread to create nuisance. There were some bad quality eggs which were stored beyond its self-life and that triggered this issue. Nobody has yet figured out a way to adulterate the eggs and therefore it is one of the safest food products available.
Q. What are your expansion plans?
A. Srinivasa Farms is the exclusive distributor of HyLine Layer Chicks in India. We are currently supplying day old chicks, soya de-oiled cakes, poultry feed and processed chicken in south India. We will be supply day old chicks throughout India by the end of 2018. We have started our own retail operations to provide chilled fresh and hygienic poultry products. We will be initially concentrating on the south Indian market for retail.