Facing loss, Punjab poultry farms chicken out of trade

September 6, 2019

Ranjit Singh Sidhu, owner of the largest poultry farm (of layers) at Malerkotla in Punjab, is contemplating to winding it up as he claims that he has never seen worst times as he is witnessing now. 

Starting his farm with just 500 birds in 1989, he slowly built his business to have 5,00,000 birds. Sidhu says I am not earning a single penny for the past few months, and making a loss of Rs 1.5 lakh per day. I do not know how long I can sustain the losses... maybe, like others, I will have to think about closing down.

If an affluent poultry farmer like Sidhu is talking of losses, the situation of smaller poultry farmers is worse. Pawan Wahi, who set up a poultry farm in Barwala, 25 km from here, four years ago, has been forced to shut the farm three months ago. With 70,000 birds at his farm, Wahi says he could no longer sustain the losses as the demand for eggs has decreased (because of huge subsidy-based poultry farms coming up in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar), and the cost of feed has gone up by 30 per cent. “I was suffering a loss of Re 1 per egg daily. I then decided to shut down the farm and have moved back to my business of supplying medicines for the birds,” he says.

Sunil Garg, another poultry farmer, says that every day, he hears about one or the other poultry farmer winding up operations in Barwala. “More than 15 per cent of the farms set up in the past five years have closed down. The main reason is the loss of market, with both Uttar Pradesh and Bihar Governments promoting poultry farming by giving subsidies. This has led to fall in prices of eggs for the farmer, who is getting just Rs 300 per 100 eggs, as compared to Rs 350 per 100 eggs last year. 

“Besides, the prices of maize have shot up drastically after the Centre increased the MSP of maize. As a result, maize (the main ingredient in poultry feed) costs us Rs 21- Rs 23 per kg; as against Rs 13- Rs 15 per kg last year. This has increased our production cost, while our selling price has come down,” rues Garg.

GS Bedi, another poultry farmer in Amritsar, says that even the Jammu and Kashmir market, which has remained closed to them since the fresh unrest post abrogation of Article 370, has hit their revenue. “We would send live birds there, but since the fall in sales there, the price of live birds have come down to Rs 60 per kg (one kg live bird gives 600 gm chicken), as compared to Rs 70 per kg earlier.

Surjit Singh Kohli, who runs a chicken processing unit in Lalru, says he has rarely seen such uncertainty in business, as now. “We cannot halt production… and because J&K market remains closed for us, we are forced to sell at very low prices, by incurring losses. The cost of production of one broiler is Rs 20 per kg, and we are selling at Rs 3-7 per kg. We hope that after ‘puja’ days are over, sales will pick up,” he says.