Namakkal (Chennai): The managing director of Vangili Feeds Co., a poultry farm based in Namakkal, 300km south-west of Chennai, had big plans for the year. V. Subramaniam was working on expanding his poultry unit to increase his turnover by 30% and was sitting ready with a bank loan to fund the plan. Not any more.
The fall in egg prices in Namakkal district, an indirect impact of the bird flu outbreak in West Bengal, and fears about consuming chicken-related products have already lost him around Rs1 crore on his monthly turnover of about Rs4-5 crore. And that’s even though Nammakal is thousands of kilometres from West Bengal.
“The stock market crashes and the finance minister gives a comforting speech to the investors; who is there for farmers like us?” asks Subramaniam, referring to the drop in the poultry business that was overshadowded by the stock market meltdown on Tuesday that forced P. Chidambaram to tell people to stay calm.
Things are only getting worse for Subramaniam, one of the several poultry farmers in Namakkal. The cost of rearing chicken has risen over the last few weeks because of an increase in the prices of inputs such as maize and soya beans. Though the epidemic outbreaks in the last few years have damped the poultry industry in Namakkal—a big player in the Indian poultry industry—and resulted in losses, industry officials maintain that so far none of the units has shuttered.
“But it could happen soon, if the situation in West Bengal is not controlled immediately,” says R. Nallathambi, president of Tamil Nadu Poultry Farmers’ Association (TNPFA), an industry body based in Namakkal. “Why should the outbreak of bird flu 2,000km away affect our business to this extent? Much of the business losses are due to false media reports,” Nallathambi adds.
According to TNPFA, the loss to the Namakkal poultry industry was around Rs1,000 crore during the outbreak in Maharashtra in early 2006. “This time, it could be anywhere between Rs750 crore and Rs1,500 crore loss (rough estimates), but only time will tell,” Nallathambi said.