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December 5, 2018

Coop dreams unviable for ailing economy


December 5, 2018

LAHORE: The idea of chicken and eggs business to alleviate poverty floated by Prime Minister Imran Khan is against the international trend, as the world poultry has shifted to commercial farming, simply because producing broiler chicken and layers commercially is much cheaper than raising them at homes.

Poultry no doubt is a very convenient bird to rear domestically. However it is prone to some fatal diseases that are contagious in nature and that not only destroy the entire stock of a farmer, but all farms nearby, as the disease spreads through air.

The average rate of mortality due to New Castle and various other diseases is estimated to be 20 percent of the total annual production during the periods of outbreaks, which lasts, at times, four to five months. A decade back it was dreaded by both large and small poultry farmers. But in recent years, big farmers have started rearing their stocks in controlled sheds. The poultry workers have to take numerous precautions before entering the poultry shed and no outsider is allowed.

Most of the poultry meat and chicken eggs are provided by huge controlled poultry farms that protect the birds from fatal diseases. These birds are reared in fully closed sheds airtight where 30,000 to 45,000 one day old chicken mature into the broiler (for chicken meat) and layer (for eggs). The sheds are aerated with water sprinkling fans with exhaust fans taking out the humidity and heat.

Small farmers and backyard farmers are still prone to New Castle disease (locally known as Rani Khait). The poor women, if provided with chicken to be raised at home, would face the risk of annihilation of their stocks. The rural women could be facilitated by provided with cattle, sheep and goat that are less prone to diseases.

Bangladesh inducted millions of urban and rural women in their value-added textile sector, or they got loans from microfinance banks to rear livestock other than poultry. Another point worth noting is that the cost of commercial poultry farmers is much less than the chicken reared at smaller level.

The most efficient chicken breeds have been developed after thorough research that has reduced the maturity time. This phenomenon is not restricted to Pakistan, but is witnessed across the world because poultry is the most researched livestock around the globe.

Productivity increase in poultry is because of 100 years of sustained research in this sector. In the US, a chicken breed selected in 1,925 matured to a live weight of 1,139 grams in 112 days, while the mortality rate of stock was 18 percent. With improvement in the same breed the live weight increased to 1,560 gram in 63 days and mortality rate was reduced to six percent.

Further improvement in the same breed the live weight of chicken increased to 2,597 grams and maturity time was reduced to 47 days, while mortality came down to only 3.5 percent. This tremendous increase in productivity explains the reason for slower increase in poultry meat rates than all other edibles.

Poultry farming in our country is not well-organised. Poultry prices remain volatile throughout the year. When there is over-production, prices dip to much below the cost and chicken is available at Rs100 to Rs125/kg, but when the supply is short, it may shoot to Rs275 to Rs300/kg as is being witnessed these days.

Poor rural women may not be able to operate in this volatile market. As far as export of chicken meat is concerned, rural women would not be able to comply with the strict condition of the foreign halal meat importers.

However, since the prime minister has recognised the potential for poultry export, the government should facilitate the poultry sector and removes hurdles that impede its growth. Since Pakistanis are deficient in animal protein; poultry use should be encouraged at the domestic level.

Poultry meat is the most environment-friendly protein, as a poultry bird consumes 1.5 to 1.7kg of grain in 42 days and consumes 3,000 litres of water to produce 1kg chicken meat. Compared with this, it requires 5 to 7kg of grain, 16,000 litres of water over a period of 365 days to produce 1kg beef.

To produce 1kg mutton, goats or sheep consume 5 to 7kg of grain over a period of 180 days, while consuming 6,000 litres of water.

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