By Laxman Kafle, Kathmandu, Apr 9: Nepal’s poultry farm sector has been hit hard by the nationwide lockdown for the last two weeks.
The nationwide lockdown enforced to control and prevent the COVID-19 from March 24 has affected the poultry sector severely, said Guna Chandra Bista, president of Poultry Federation of Nepal.
The restriction on the movement of vehicles due to lockdown is disrupting the supply-chain at various levels - hatcheries, feed mills, poultry farms and retail outlets, he said.
“Entrepreneurs involved in the poultry sector are in crisis and they are losing their investment due to lack of market for their production because of lockdown,” he said.
Chickens have started dying at farms in the absence of feeds and the farmers are unable to market their live birds, he said.
The daily demand for feeds is 30,000 tonnes but only around 5,000 to 7,000 tonnes of feeds is being produced at present, he said.
“The farmers who are able to supply their chickens to the market are selling at Rs 100 to Rs 120 per kilogram. This rate is very low compared to the production cost. The poultry sector is facing a loss of above of Rs 220 million daily,” Bista told The Rising Nepal.
The indirect loss of the sector is four times higher than the direct loss. Around 2.5 million people are directly involved in this sector across the country.
Investment in poultry sector is above Rs 120 billion
Chairman of Nepal Hatchery Industries Association Tikaram Pokharel said that sales of chicks had stopped for the last 15 days of the lockdown.
“A mutual effort of the government and the poultry entrepreneurs is a must to save this self-reliant sector from this crisis,” he said.
The sector can revive within five/six months if the government offers support, he said. Otherwise, the sector would collapse as small farmers have been running poultry business by taking loans from the banks, he said.
“The hatchery industries are producing chicks every day but we have been compelled to destroy them due to the lack of market. We are keeping eggs in the machines for producing chicks expecting an end to the lockdown,” he said.
The investment in the poultry sector including poultry farms, hatcheries, and feed industries across the country stands at around Rs 120 billion, he said.
The hatchery industries alone are facing a loss of Rs 34.5 million after they destroyed the chicks, he said.
“There will be a shortage of chicken in the market after a month as the farmers are not keeping new chicks at their farms analyzing the present adverse situation,” he said.
Around 3.5 million chickens used to reach the market in a week, but this cycle has stopped for the last two weeks and it indicates that the market would see an acute shortage of chickens after the lifting of the lockdown.
They have demanded with the government to write off the interest of bank loans for at least a year to run the poultry business, reschedule bank’s installments and provide refinance facilities to the industries, he said.
He said that they had asked the government to introduce relief package targeting the poultry farmers who are doing business by keeping 200-400 chickens.
“The urgent need of the sector is to save the small farmers from this crisis as the sector has become self-reliant and stop the import of chickens from India. Around Rs 120 million has been saved a month after the sector became self-reliant,” he said.
Govt. doing homework for relief package
Spokesman at the Ministry of Agricultural and Livestock Development Dr. Hari Bahadur KC said that the ministry was planning to introduce the relief package for the agriculture sector including poultry to keep it safe from the impact of COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no certainty how long the situation will continue and what its impact will be on every sector. So, the government will introduce the relief package considering its impact,” he said.
Director General of the Department of Livestock Services Dr Banshi Sharma said that they were holding discussions with the concerned stakeholders to provide relief to the poultry farmers and other entrepreneurs.
“The cycle of poultry sector from production to consumption has been affected due to the lockdown. One harvesting season of poultry production has been ruined. There are around eight cycles of poultry production over a year as one season will complete in around 40 days from chick production to consumption,” he said.
The annual consumption of chicken in Nepal stands at around 77,000 tonnes where the share of chicken to the total meat consumption is 20 per cent during the normal period.