Poultry farming

Poultry is one of the most important and fastest-growing sectors of agriculture sectors today in India. The poultry sector majorly maintains the requirements of protein and nutrition. India today is one of the largest manufacturers of eggs and broiler meat. The poultry industry in India has endured an exemplary transformation in structure and operation during the last two decades and modified into a mega-industry with the presence of a huge number of workers from a mere backward poultry farming that appears to be very fast.

Current Scenario

  • India has the world’s largest population of livestock.
  • India is the world’s 3rd largest egg producer and 6th largest producer of broilers.
  • The recent data of the year 2018 states that the egg production in India is 88.139 billion eggs (3rd in Egg Production)
  • 75% of egg production is contributed by commercial poultry farms, remaining comes from household/backyard poultry billion and the broiler production is: 4.9 million MT (4th in Broiler Production).
  • The growth rate of layer market is 6-7 percent per annum and broiler market is 8-10 percent per annum.
  • Total poultry feed production of the country stands at 24 million tonnes. The Indian poultry sector is valued at INR 1.25 lakh cr or USD 18.5 bn.
  • In essence, poultry and meat are vertically integrated industries in India and have witnessed colossal growth over the past few years.
  • The poultry industry in India, in particular, represents a massive success story.
  • It has undergone a paradigm shift in structure and operation and what was largely a backyard venture before the 1960s has been transformed into a vibrant agribusiness with an annual turnover of INR 30 000 crores. Presently, India is the third largest egg producer in the world following China and the USA.

Potential of the poultry sector

  • The development goes beyond size – extending to efficiency, superiority and quality.
  • Labour: Poultry sector, besides providing direct or indirect employment to nearly 3 million people is a potent tool for subsidiary income generation for many landless and marginal farmers.
  • Nutritional security: For a distressed farmer’s family, food provided by livestock is the only source of nutrition required for survival and also provides nutritional security.
  • Reliable source of income: Further, landless labourers derive more than 50 per cent of their income from livestock especially from poultry.
  • Asset: Livestock are important asset for a distress farmer which can be encashed at any moment and may help him to come out of debt trap.

Undoubtedly, this remarkable growth is an outcome of several factors, such as active developmental support from the state and central government, research and development support from research institutes, application of new technologies, international collaboration and private sector participation.

Growth drivers for poultry industry

  • In India, poultry sector growth may be attributed to many factors like rising incomes and a rapidly expanding middle class, together with the emergence of vertically integrated poultry producers that have reduced consumer prices by lowering production and marketing costs.
  • Integrated production, market transition from live birds to chilled and frozen products, and policies that ensure supplies of competitively priced corn and soybean are keys to future poultry industry growth in India. Further, disease surveillance, monitoring and control will also decide the fate of this sector.
  • Concurrently, India’s unorganized and backyard poultry sector is also one of the potent tool for subsidiary income generation for many landless/ marginal farmers and also provides nutritional security to the rural poor.
  • These achievements and growth rates are still being sustained despite the ingress of avian influenza which was a severe setback for the industry, showing the resilience of the subsector, perseverance of the private sector and timely intervention by the Government.
  • To assess the future trends, we have to review the past planning and present scenario to extrapolate the future. The externalities and variables are often unprecedented and sudden. Both empirical and statistical methods need to be accounted for while making any predictive assumptions

Challenges faced by Poultry Sector

  • Outbreak of diseases like Avian Influenza ( Bird Flu) causes culling of poultry, scrapping of orders and price rise which hits the industry hard.
  • Shortage of raw material is another issue. Price of soybean meal, has increased, which has forced the feed manufacturers to compromise in terms of diet given to birds.
  • Shortage of human resources is another problem because of the absence of veterinarians, researchers, in areas where expertise knowledge is required.
  • Indian poultry sector is still unable to tap the benefit of international market. Lack of adequate cold storage, warehouses is the major factor affecting poultry sector in India.
  • Majority of the production is by unorganized sector as backyard poultry for additional income.
  • Increasing antibiotics level in poultry products are creating long lasting harmful effects like drug resistance in people.
  • Lack of comprehensive regulating authority to maintain hygiene, and granting of licenses to businesses.
  • The proximity of the birds to their waste and other birds increases risk of agents such as salmonella for consumers.

Way forward

  • The central government should therefore come up with clear guidelines declaring the poultry as agriculture activity, thereby extending all the benefits of farming to poultry farmers.
  • Central government should frame user support policy to encourage bio plants for poultry and to move organic mass of the country.
  • Government should earmark funds for awareness generation through “Social Awareness Campaigns” which could sensitize the communities and population at a large on major aspects related to poultry including,
  • Hygienic rearing, slaughtering and storage of poultry to ensure food safety and quality.
  • Health benefits of poultry products and nutritional value it offers.
  • Prevention measures for poultry from various diseases and infections.
  • There is a requirement of national geographical zoning to avoid adverse effects on the overall economy in the case of an outbreak of bird influenza in any part of the country.
  • Infrastructure development is key for viability and sustained growth of poultry sector especially the cold chain and processing units as there are fluctuations in poultry consumption round the year owing to religious and cultural factors.

Poultry rearing has always been an integral component of livestock production system in India. The concept of composite farming production system with crop, livestock, fish and poultry production has been practiced for centuries in India. However, poultry production in India has taken a quantum leap in the last four decades, emerging from an entirely unorganized and unscientific farming practice to commercial production system with state-of-the-art technological interventions

Rampant usage of Antibiotics in Poultry

Antibiotics in poultry are used for the following reasons:

  • The issue of antibiotic use in livestock is particularly for non-therapeutic use such as mass disease prevention or growth promotion of poultry, pigs etc.
  • Studies conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment has shown the use of important antimicrobials, including critically important ones in poultry and aquaculture.
  • Indian chicken producers claim that antibiotics are used only for treating sick birds.

Reasons for rampant usage of antibiotics continues in Poultry and why it should be strictly banned

  • Unregulated sale of the drugs for human or animal use accessed without prescriptionor diagnosis has led to unchecked consumption and misuse.
    • Of tested birds destined for meat consumption, 87% had the super germs based on a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
  • Farms supplying India’s biggest poultry-meat companies routinely use medicines classified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as “critically important” as a way of staving off disease or to make them gain weight faster, so that more can be grown each year for greater profit.
    • One drug typically given this way is Colistin which is used to treat patients critically ill with infections that have become resistant to nearly all other drugs.
  • In India, the poultry industry is booming. The amount of chicken produced doubled between 2003 and 2013. Chicken is popular because it can be eaten by people of all religionsand affordable. Experts predict the rising demand for protein will cause a surge in antibiotic use in livestock. India’s consumption of antibiotics in chickens is predicted to rise fivefold by 2030 compared to 2010.
  • Lax regulation:-
    • India does not have an effective integrated policy to control the use of antibiotics in livestock and poultry with a viewpoint of containing antibiotic resistance
    • In 2014 the Agriculture Ministry sent an advisory letter to all State governments asking them to review the use of antibiotic growth promoters. However, the directive was non-binding, and none have introduced legislation to date.
    • Even the guidelines of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB)on poultry waste management do not adequately address ABR.
  • In India, at least five animal pharmaceutical companies are openly advertising products containing Colistin as growth promoters.
    • Chickens are fed antibiotics so that they gain weight and grow fast.
    • Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has found residues of antibiotics in 40 per cent of the chicken samples it tested.
    • In Europe, Colistin is available to farmers only if prescribed by a vet for the treatment of sick animals. In India there is no such thing.
  • India, level of awareness regarding antibiotic resistance is very low.
  • Antibiotics are also coming from China as the imports are not regulated
  • Poultry farmers also ignore the mandatory withdrawal period, time gap between the use of antibiotics and when it is slaughtered that helps ensure that high levels of antibiotic residues do not pass on to humans.
  • While many poultry farmers are aware of other options or antibiotic-free growth promoter feed supplements, their high cost is prohibitive for smaller players. Bigger farmers are less keen because there is no incentive to make antibiotic-free chickens.

Health and other risks:

  • Because resistance blunts the effectiveness of drugs designed to cure or prevent infection.
    • The bacteria survive and continue to multiply rendering ineffectual treatment for serious illnesses like pneumonia and tuberculosis, even prophylaxis in, say, caesarian deliveries. It hampers recovery in post-operative surgery.
  • Public health experts have suspected that such rampant use of antibiotics could be a reason for increasing antibiotic resistance in India.
    • These mutated robust strains bypass toxic effects of antibiotics, making them ineffective. They can easily spread among the flock and contaminate the food chain.
    • They can also alter the genetic material of other bacteria, often pathogenic ones, making them resistant to several drugs and resulting in a global pandemic.
  • Antibiotic residues present in the meat can directly unleash an assault on microbes in humans.
  • The mutated robust microbe strain can invade the body and cause diseases that are difficult to treat. Even mild infections require stronger dosage.
  • These drug-resistant bacteria could nullify the gains of modern medicine by compromising the success of organ transplants, high-end surgeries and cancer chemotherapy.
  • With drugs losing their effectiveness, the world would need newer antibiotics. Unfortunately, no new class of antibiotic has hit the market since late 1980s.
  • Annual healthcare cost due to antibiotic resistance is estimated to be as high as $20 billion, with an additional productivity loss of up to $35 billion in the US.
  • Treating fatal diseases like sepsis, pneumonia and tuberculosis (TB) are becoming tough because microbes that cause these diseases are increasingly becoming resistant to fluoroquinolones.
  • Farmhands who handle the birds often wear open-toe shoes, providing a conduit of entry for resistant bacteria and resistance genes into the community and hospitals, where further person-to-person transmission is possible.

Way forward

  • Ban the use of antibiotics for growth promotion and mass disease prevention. It should only be used to cure the sick animals based on prescription of veterinarians
  • Antibiotics should not be allowed in feed and feedThe government should set standards for animal feed and regulate the business
  • Encourage development, production and use of alternative antibiotic-free growth promoters, such as herbal supplements
  • All animal antibiotics should be traceable from manufacturing site to user. Implement stringent control on import of antibiotics and feed supplements
  • Good farm management practices should be followed to control infection and stress among the flock.
  • Veterinarians should be trained and educated on judicious use of antibiotics and infection prevention.The government should ensure that veterinarians do not get incentives for prescribing more antibiotics
  • There is a need to introduce a labelling system wherein poultry raised without use of antibiotics should be labelled through reliable certified schemes to facilitate consumer choice.
  • It is necessary to create an integrated surveillance system to monitor antibiotics use and antibiotics resistance trends in humans, animals and food chain. A national-level database should be developed and kept in the public domain.
  • Citizens should be educated about what they are eating, what does their food contain, and what are the consequences.
  • Herbal feeds:-
    • Other countries are importing herbal animal feeds from India. The effectiveness of these herbal feeds should be studied for Indian conditions. And if these feeds pass the test, Indian farmers should be advised to use them.
  • The government must issue advisories asking poultry farmers to stop the use of Colistin and maintain records of the overall use of all drugs given to poultry. This should become a strict requirement for the poultry industry.