Risk or rumour? Chicken prices tumble as bird flu threat triggers panic in Kashmir
Srinagar: Bird flu scare has dealt a killer blow to the fledgling poultry sector with demand dropping and prices tumbling across Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir administration has banned the import of chicken and other poultry products from other states.
Local poultry farmers said that a “wrong message” has gone to the consumers which has led to heavy losses.
“Poultry farmers have started to bear the brunt of these rumours. Though there has not been a single case of bird flu in Kashmir, our farmers are reporting a decline in business,” said Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, President, Kashmir Valley Poultry Farmers Association (KVPFA).
He said the poultry farmers have slashed the rates of chicken in order to woo customers amid the bird flu scare. “Now there is no uniform rate for chicken across the valley. Some of our poultry farmers are selling chicken at very low price. Despite that people are hesitating to buy chicken,” he said.
Bhat said the valley poultry farmers had already stopped importing chicken from other states. “The highway has been closed for many days and we have stopped importing chicken after government order. It is crows and pigeons, which are getting infected and not chickens,” he said.
KVPFA president said nearly 40 percent of the poultry farms remain shut in the valley during winter.
“During winters, many poultry farmers shut their farms due to the intense cold. Kashmir bred chicken is completely safe and we have appealed to the government to clear the misconceptions among people,” he said.
Many poultry farmers said they have not received customers for the last two days due to the bird flu scare. “We had no option other than to lower the rates of chicken. Still, we are receiving fewer customers after rumours of bird flu spread,” said Mohammad Shafi, a poultry farmer from the old city Srinagar.
Jammu and Kashmir is highly vulnerable to bird flu and Wildlife Conservation Fund has requested people to be aware of this fact and take necessary measures at their own levels.
J&K imports over 60% poultry from Punjab and Haryana. Poultry division of Sheep and Animal Husbandry Department has also taken samples of local chicken for testing at Vaccine Production and Research Center Zakura.
“We have banned imports of all poultry products from other states. However, there is no ban on the poultry being reared in Jammu and Kashmir,” said Dr. Purnima Mittal, Director, Animal Husbandry Department.