The report carried in the Sunday's issue of this paper that manufacturers of poultry and fish feeds have been forced to cut down their production by 20 per cent is concerning. As could be learnt from the leaders of the industry, it is the soaring prices of raw materials for animal feeds --- soya meal and maize, in particular, in the international market that have prompted their decision. The president of the Feed Industries Association of Bangladesh (FIAB), for example, held that during the last two years, the price of soya meal in the global market has seen an 80 per cent rise. Other raw materials for animal feeds have meanwhile shot up by 123 per cent. Obviously, the reason is the pandemic followed by the Russia-Ukraine war.
Against this backdrop, the animal feed manufacturers have no doubt walked a tightrope to continue doing business. And going by what they told the media, they have shown enough patience by not raising fish and poultry feed prices despite sustaining considerable losses. But now that they have had to reduce poultry and fish feed production, their action will necessarily negatively impact the country's supply of protein, an essential ingredient of the people's daily diet. Needless to say, any shortage in the supply of poultry, egg and fish means another round of hike in the prices of these items in the market. Already reeling from the skyrocketing prices of the daily necessaries, pricier fish and poultry will prove to be the proverbial last straw that broke the camel's (read the common people's) back.
What is of still greater concern is that any volatility in the animal feed market will have its knock-on effect on the entire livestock sector. That will no doubt trigger another upward spiral of livestock product prices including those of milk and meat. While the supply shortage of animal feeds has led bigger farms in the livestock sector to go for production cut, many medium and smaller ones have reportedly closed their business. When the poultry and the fish industries are going through such a tough time due to animal feed crisis, the government is learnt to have allowed export of soybean meal. It is believed the government would reconsider the decision, if only to protect this vital sector of the economy. At the same time, it should take urgent measures to address the existential issues facing the sector. What is reassuring, though, on this score is the resilience that the leaders of the poultry industry, in particular, have shown despite the odds they have been facing. Rather than asking for direct financial assistance, as is the usual practice among businesses in crisis, they have sought help in the shape of tax holiday or low-cost loan to recover their losses.
Hopefully, the government would give the leaders of the poultry industry, an important livestock subsector, a fair hearing and come up with the support they need. The issue is urgent for obvious reasons. Side by side with extending the necessary financial assistance to this vital sector of the economy, the government should also focus on developing backward linkage for the animal feed industry. This will be of great help to reduce the animal feed industry's dependence on imported raw materials. What is more, it would have its positive ripple effect on the entire livestock sector.