Poultry industry feels Coronavirus pinch as rumours link it to broiler chicken

February 6, 2020

As the dreaded coronavirus (nCoV) continues to spread, the poultry industry is wary of what they say is a misinformation campaign linking broiler meat with the spread of the virus. A section of the industry has sought government help to fight this campaign, which they say has affected the consumption of poultry meat by as much as 50 per cent. On Wednesday, a section of the industry filed a complaint with the cyber cell of Pune police seeking action against people spreading misinformation.

Since the spread of the virus, posts on social media, especially WhatsApp forwards, have linked the virus with consumption of broiler chicken. While the first spread of the virus is speculated to be zoonotic in nature — spreading from animals to humans — the subsequent spread has been mostly human to human. However, social media posts, the poultry industry feels, have created a negative sentiment about consumption of the protein among people. 

Incidentally, the industry has reported a dip in sales. Dr Dattatreya Kadam, director of Shri KY AgroVet company, said sales were fine till Sunday. “However on Monday these rumours started circulating on social media and by Tuesday sales had taken a dip of around 50 per cent,” he claimed.

The low sales had a direct effect on farm gate prices — prices at which farmers sell their 2-2.5 kg market-ready birds. On Wednesday, the farm gate price in Pune was Rs 65 per kg, a direct drop from the Rs 75 per kg of Tuesday.
“Lower consumption is the reason,” claimed Dr Kadam.

On Wednesday, the Poultry Farmers and Breeders Association of Maharashtra — an apex body of the industry went to Shivajinagar police station to officially lodge a complaint. In their complaint, they have asked police to take action against the spread of such false messages. “We are trying to meet Minister of Animal Husbandry Sunil Kedar to seek his intervention in this matter,” he said.

On an average, a city like Pune reports placement-sales of 90 lakh to 1.10 crore birds per month while the figure for Maharashtra is around 3 crore. If the present trend of low consumption continues, the industry feels it will have to take up a mass awareness programme to counter it at a later date.