Again, Bird flu scare hits poultry farmers reeling under drought

The state’s poultry farmers who are already reeling under the twin blows of drought and acute water scarcity are now affected by the outbreak of bird flu.

A day after Karnataka government sounded high alert following the detection of bird flu at a poultry farm in Bidar district, poultry products, usually the second best choice when it comes to proteins, reported a drop in sales of 20-25 per cent. The poultry industry, which suffered heavily when the virus hit the country some eight years ago, is worried how this news would pan out in the coming days.

“It is quite common for us to experience bird losses in the summer due to high temperatures and contaminated water. But the outbreak of bird flu has delivered a big blow especially for farmers who have invested in lakhs,” said Gopal Gowda, a poultry and dairy farmer based in Rajankunte off Bengaluru. Though there were reports of bird flu deaths in Bidar, he said the fear among consumers after government sounded high alert brought down the sales.

K S Ashok Kumar, president of the Karnataka Poultry Farmers’ and Breeders’ Association, said, every time when there is a bird flu scare, the poultry industry is generally the target though the other free flying birds mainly migratory fauna that fly close to our homes are the bigger threat than the chickens in the organised sector.

After the bird flu scare a few years ago, he said.most of the organised poultry sector have taken up bio-security measures as a preventive measure to ward off straying animals into the farms that can cause the infection to enter and spread. Kumar said the virus to poultry birds in Bidar could have spread after they came in contact with migratory birds as the poultry farm is located on the national highway there.

Individual members of the association, however, are worried. “The word will spread fast and could lead to fall in demand,” an association member said. Karnataka has about nine crore poultry birds in the organized sector that produces about three crore eggs a day, supplying to different parts of the country.

Meanwhile, there are reports of surge in demand for red meat and pork. Riazuddin, a mutton seller, said, “The business on Monday generally is dismal but for a change, we had good business”.

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