Bird flu-hit poultry sector wants loan waiver like agri

Written by Charanjit Ahuja | Chandigarh, Apr 7 | Updated: Apr 8 2008, 07:42am hrs
Bird flu hit poultry industry of North has demanded loan waiver akin to the one announced by the Centre for farm sector.

A delegation of North Zone Broiler Breeders Association on Monday met agriculture minister Sharad Pawar during his visit to Chandigarh and made a case for relief for poultry farmers in view of repeated outbreak of bird flu and rising prices of maize and soya bean in view of forward trading.

Balraj Singh, president of North Zone Broiler and Breeder Association told FE, "Poultry is the most important agriculture-related sector which had maintained 15-18% growth during the past three decades without any support from the government. However, during the last three years there have been frequent bird flu cases affecting 97% of poultry farmers."

Singh said that plagued by huge outstanding loans, fall in farm-gate prices and suspension of exports because of bird flu scare, poultry farmers are irked at the government's failure to take up their case for extending loan waiver and one time settlement scheme initiated for farmers.

He said the poultry farmers have incurred a loss of an estimated Rs 3,000 crore this year due to bird flu outbreak leading to surplus in markets. With the government itself treating poultry as a part of agriculture, there is no reason why similar concessions should not have been granted to them. Singh said cumulative loss to the industry was more than Rs.11, 000 crore due to fall in farm-gate prices and suspension of exports.

Surender Bhutani, DV Dhanda, Sandeep Mehra and Sandeep Mehta, all poultry farmers, who met the agriculture minister on Monday told FE that like agriculture, poultry farming is an important food production sector, manufacturing the cheapest source of animal protein and other essential nutrients for mass consumption, and there is no reason why it should not be treated at par with agriculture for whom the government announced a loan waiver of Rs 60,000 crore. For the past three years, the sector has been facing some of its worst crisis in 30 years.

After the outbreak of bird flu, the industry suffered due to fall in farm-gate prices and suspension of exports. Before it could recover, maize prices increased from Rs 500-525 per quintal to Rs 900 and in some places even to Rs 1,000, mainly due to forward trading, exports and speculation by traders.

The North Zone Broiler Breeders Association demands "forward trading in maize be banned immediately, export of maize and soya meal may be channelised through a designated government agency, interest subvention of 8% to poultry sector and benefit of loan and interest waiver at par with farm sector". The poultry farmers also want electricity to poultry farms at par with agricultural tariff, bank loans at par with agricultural rate of interest and compensation on lines with agriculture in case of a natural calamity.

Deputation of Broiler Breeders Association told Pawar that though bird flu occurs only in farm backyards, which account for 2-3% of the industry, the entire industry, which supports the livelihood of 3.2 million persons and contributes over Rs 40,000 crore to the GNP, had to suffer huge losses.

Poultry farmers in the region say because of the losses suffered by them, even the RBI has asked all the banks to convert the principal and interest due on working capital loans to term loans, to be recovered in easy installments over a period of three years. "Even the insurance firms are re-scheduling the insurance cover grated to us, in order to help us better. But the government has failed to come to our rescue," say North Zone Broiler Breeders Association members.