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Integrating Small Farmers into the Poultry Industry

by 5m Editor
4 August 2008, at 8:01am

PAKISTAN - The poultry sector is one of the more significant segments of the agricultural sector, in which about 15 million people are engaged, directly or indirectly. At present, investment in this sector estimated to be around Rs. 200 billion.

This sector has shown an annual growth of 8-10 per cent but this vibrant expansion is not benefiting smaller producers.

According to Dawn, poultry farms are now being set up by big investors in closed sheds and houses ventilated round-the-clock through fans and coolers, posing a threat to subsistence farming. The subsistence farming is now becoming a job without profit. Small farmers are facing losses due to high cost of production and low prices of birds in the market.

In subsistence farming, the rate of mortality and cost of production is higher than farming in controlled shed. Normally, in uncontrolled shed, the cost of production per kilo of live broiler is about 75 rupees (PKR) while average wholesale rate at farm is around PKR57. The market rate fluctuation is a threat to subsistence poultry farming. The price of live broiler at farm normally fluctuate between PKR40 and PKR80 per kilo.

The demand and supply mechanism for fixing the market rate is just a killing principle for small farmers, according to the report. It is not a proper way to announce rates of poultry for sustainable subsistence farming. It is a common perception among small farmers that influential and big farmers manipulate the market prices to take advantage of high prices. Whatever the reason, the fluctuation in live bird prices is the significant factor in losses to small farmers.

The second reason for losses is the fluctuation in the rates of day-old chicks. Due to big losses at the farmers' end, the demand for day-old chicks often gets disturbed, which results in wide fluctuations in prices. During just one month, prices varied between PKR5 and PKR30. The farmers who purchase chicks at high prices are more susceptible to losses.

The third most significant factor in determining the profit or loss is the skyrocketing prices of poultry feed. Feed accounts for more than 70 per cent production cost for poultry comes from feed prices. Poultry feed prices have gone up by 22 per cent in 2007-2008. In coming days, it is expected that feed prices would increase further. Wheat and rice are the two major poultry feed ingredients. Wheat contributes about 50 per cent in the manufacturing of various types of poultry feeds for layers, broilers and breeders while rice is the major ingredient. Soybean constitutes 25 per cent of the poultry diet. Its price has doubled in one year.

The farmers should be aware of the latest farming techniques and principles of poultry business. Small subsistence farms should never be engulfed by large commercial units. The government should bring subsistence farmers in the mainstream of technologically advanced poultry farming by educating them in farm management practices, continues the Dawn report.

Private sector especially feed mills and hatcheries recruit their own extension staff for promotion and extension activities. Although technical and extension field staff is mainly intended to promote sales of the feed mills and hatcheries’ products, it also helps boost the poultry industry.

Involvement of public sector is revealed by the research study recently conducted in Faisalabad district. None of the sampled farmers reported the activities of public poultry extension agent. There is a need to fill the vacant position in livestock department and implementation of a strict monitoring policy.

The poultry sector also needs attention to educate farmers. The government and the private sector should encourage and upgrade poultry industry. Some appreciable efforts have been made by the Smeda and Livestock Department to develop the poultry industry. If the government addresses the causes of losses to subsistence farmers as a priority basis and arranges a strategic set-up to educate farmers, it would ensure the incorporation of small and subsistence farmers into the modern poultry industry.

5m Editor