Poultry sector suffers as pandemic pushes up poverty

It incurs Tk 70 billion loss due to the pandemic

FHM HUMAYAN KABIR | Sunday, 17 January 2021

Bangladesh's poultry industry has been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic as it has already incurred a loss of Tk 70 billion, industry insiders said on Saturday.

The industry has been struggling with lower demand for egg and meat as millions of people have fallen under the poverty line for coronavirus, they added.

Leading entrepreneurs and researchers said many small and medium poultry farms are still shut with thousands of workers remaining out of job. It is all the doing of the Covid pandemic.

Bangladesh Poultry Industries Central Council (BPICC) said it has become difficult for the farmers and the industries to recuperate from the losses because of the declining demand for egg and meat.

According to a survey of the One Health Poultry Hub Bangladesh, the prices of poultry products have plunged to a record low in 12 years due to the Covid-19.

The survey carried out in June last said the production of day-old-chick (DoC) dropped by 30-45 per cent and poultry feed by 30-40 per cent.

The demand for drugs and medicinal products used on poultry birds also plunged by 40-50 per cent.

Many small and medium poultry farms and small feed mills are closed as a result of the impact of the pandemic, disclosed the research firm.

The Breeders Association of Bangladesh said the weekly production of broiler DoC dipped to 13.5 million during Covid-19 compared to 17 million in the pre-Covid period.

On the other hand, the layer production of DoC dropped to 1.3 million compared to 1.5 million before the virus attack.

The World Bank (WB) in a September report said Covid-19 hit hard Bangladesh's agriculture sector, especially the livestock, that accounts for 1.7 per cent of GDP and employs 14 per cent of labour force.

"Most rural households are engaged in livestock production, with nearly 6.0-million people-40 per cent women-employed directly or indirectly in the sector."

"Production and marketing of eggs, poultry meat and dairy have been particularly affected. Dairy farmers and processors lost nearly $470 million since mid-March as they couldn't market milk during the countrywide shutdown," the WB observed.

"An estimated nationwide study found that 50 per cent milk remained unsold, and that the rest was sold at reduced prices."

The long-term impact of Covid-19 will extend to every sphere of society, including food security and nutrition, according to the Washington-based lender.

BPICC president Mashiur Rahman said poor demand for meat and egg due to the pandemic has affected the poultry industry hard.

"Lockdown during the March-May period was the worst time for us. Lots of small and medium farms had stopped their production," he told the FE.

As economy rebounded, the poultry industry was trying to recoup the losses, although the government hardly came forward with incentives, Mr Rahman mentioned.

He said the poultry industry, which creates 2.5-million jobs, is still struggling for survival as the demand for meat and eggs has plunged by 30 per cent.

"If the government doesn't make a realistic recovery plan and doesn't provide a cash benefit to small and medium farmers immediately, this industry won't be able to withstand the shock."

Once the policy and financial supports from the government are available, they are hopeful of recovering the losses within three-four months, believed Mr Rahman, also managing director of leading poultry company Paragon.

World's Poultry Science Association's Bangladesh branch president Abu Luthfe Fazle Rahim Khan said as some 16-million additional people have fallen into poverty trap afresh, the demand for poultry products has fallen.

"Many small and medium poultry farms have been shut. The surviving entrepreneurs are supplying eggs and meat with lower prices than their production costs," he told the FE.

"If this situation continues for some more months, the country's poultry industry will face a big blow."

Mr Khan suggested the government provide direct cash aid for farmers who have not got any stimulus from the government or commercial banks to recover their losses.

He also requested the government to waive bank interest for the next three-four years so the industry can recover from the staggering losses.

Bangladesh's poultry industry, having an investment of Tk.350 billion, is one of the key job generators.

The poultry sector's contribution to gross domestic product (GDP) is 1.5-1.6 per cent as it annually grows at 12-15 per cent rate on average.

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