3 crore birds face culling in Punjab

CHANDIGARH: The ongoing Covid-19 crisis has spelt doom for over 500 poultry farms in Punjab, with most of three crore poultry birds either set to starve to death or face culling.
The stock of eggs too is already piling up in farms. Many poultry farmers are contemplating to get rid of chicks to stop any other disease from spreading in case they starve to death.
Poultry farms have already cut down on proteins in their feed and are only giving them calcium. Birds have begun shedding feathers and chicks have begun dying.
Parminder Pal Singh, who owns a broiler farm in Amargarh, said things had gone from bad to worse. “The whole scenario is reminiscent of the crisis during bird flu about a decade ago. Apart from shortage of feed for birds, the wrong scare about possible spread of virus through chicken has added to the crisis. As it is, sale dips during Navaratra,” he said.
The average life span of broiler chicks is 35-40 days, while egg-laying birds live for over 28 months in farms.
Amteshwar Singh Dhaliwal, who owns a layer farm for eggs in Sangrur, added, “If things don’t work out, I will have no option but to kill my birds. The market may be on an upswing or in slump, but the chicks have to be fed. Already, there are reports of poultry farmers dumping birds in villages or near water bodies to get rid of them.”
Dhaliwal has a stock of over three lakh eggs on his farm. “It has a shelf life of 15 days, after which it will go waste. There are expenses we are bearing and there is no help from the government. I can’t sell the eggs as they are not on the list of essential commodities. Every day, 50-60 birds are dying on the farm due to the cut in feed. We have tried to get in touch with shopkeepers, but there are no sales due to curfew,” added Dhaliwal.
Punjab Poultry Farmers’ Association president Rajesh Garg said the sector was already in a slump and the coronavirus had come as a double whammy. “The feed for the birds comes from Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, but transport is not available, though Punjab has allowed us to get feed as a relaxation. If there is no supply, most poultry farms will shut down,” he said.

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