Since the starting of pandemic COVID-19, the Indian poultry sector has seen various disruptions which resulted in reduced consumption. Still, the industry has shown resilience and is expected to further grow in coming years. In an e-interview with Think Grain Think Feed, Ricky Thaper, Treasurer, Poultry Federation of India shares the sector is well poised to gear up to future challenges along with ensuring supplies of quality meat to consumers. Please read the excerpts below:
India, one of the lowest cost producers of broiler meat, faced a lot of disruption in terms of increasing feed cost, demand fluctuations etc. Would you please update our readers about the present status of Indian Poultry industry?
Indian broiler meat industry has been experiencing growth driven by increase in per capita consumption. The rising demand of the protein rich food along with economic growth & rise in purchasing power of the consumer have resulted in the significant growth in the consumption of poultry meat. Poultry, which includes the broiler as well as egg sector, is one of the fastest growing segments of the agricultural sector in the country. In the last decade, the annual growth rate for crop production remained 1.5-2% whereas for eggs and broilers segment it has been 8-10% annually. According to Basic Animal Husbandry statistics, 2019 released by the Department of Animal Husbandry, the poultry meat production was reported by 4.06 million tones, which is an increase of 7.8% from the previous year.
The poultry sector is valued at Rs 89,856 crore in 2019-20 while it was valued at Rs 60,066 crore in 2015-16 as per the National Accounts Statistics, 2021.
You have been working in Poultry industry for more than three and a half decades (36 years) now, would you please share how Indian poultry sector has developed in these years and also, how the integration model is supporting small farmers?
The robust growth in the broiler meat industry has been because of technological breakthroughs in breeding, feeding and health, and largely driven by investment by the private sector.
The broiler meat industry is witnessing growth because of adoption of the backward integration system. Major companies who are integrators, have hatcheries, feed mills, and primary processing facilities. The integration model ensures that farmers are protected against fluctuations in prices as under the contract they remain assured of getting predetermined fixed prices. Directly and indirectly this sector provides employment to over six million small and medium farmers. Despite several challenges faced, the integration model followed by the poultry industry has ensured that farmers are assured of remunerative prices despite volatility in market prices.
Many media reports suggest that lockdowns have resulted in better demand from online retail for home consumption of chicken. What has been its impact on the processing industry? Do you think it has increased from pre-COVID era?
In last 15 months or so, one of the key segments which has witnessed growth is the ‘online models’ where consumers preference for broiler meat and products home delivery has increased, as a large segment of population is staying at home because of restrictions imposed to control COVID-19 and companies opting for Work from Home (WFH) mode. Various players in the ‘online or home delivery’ segment are witnessing growth as consumers’ preference has shifted to the home delivery model instead of visiting wet markets. To cater to this change in consumer behavior, even the wet market retailers are providing home delivery services. This new segment is expected to drive consumption of broilers in coming months.
Meat alternatives is still a niche market but it is catching up worldwide. How do you see its impact on the poultry industry?
The impact of these products on the poultry industry is still negligible and these products are at the nascent stage of development. It would take a few more decades to actually assess these meat alternatives viability.
You have been Treasurer for Poultry Federation of India (PFI) which has played an effective role in representing industry issues to the government bodies. Please share more, especially last one-year activities.
To bring back the poultry sector into normal operations following the lockdown announced last year, PFI jointly with other major Poultry Associations like All India Poultry Breeders Association, in collaboration with both the Central as well as the State Government ensured that supplies of poultry meat was not disrupted and thus ensuring that consumers get access to safe and healthy products.
The government at the Centre as well as the States also provided policy support through declaring supply of livestock and poultry products under essential services, ensuring huddle-free interstate transport of livestock and poultry produce. The demand for broilers and eggs which went down because of bird flu scare bounded back immediately because of prompt government actions in containment of the disease. We need to work more with the government for ensuring sustainable supplies of feed raw material.
How do you see the Indian Poultry and Feed industry developing in coming years?
The demand for broiler meat is rising steadily because of a spike in demand from protein rich food. Thus, in the next 5 years, Indian poultry industry would witness robust growth rate as there is still a large segment of population who may shift to eggs and broiler meat for meeting their protein requirement.
The Feed Industry would witness a similar growth rate in tandem with growth in the egg and broiler meat sector. The government as well as the private sector must work together to ensure that raw materials of feed including soybean meal, maize and other agricultural produce are supplied at reasonable prices as feed cost constitutes a major component of broiler meat production. Sharp rise in the feed costs, especially rise in prices of soybean meal, maize and other supplements in the last one year has pushed up the cost of the production of poultry meat as well as eggs. As feed cost constitutes a major portion of cost of the production, the industry has to look for sustainable and stable supplies of feed to avoid a spike in the prices. The future growth would depend on creating infrastructure for sustainable supplies of feed at remunerative prices and curbing price fluctuations.
The industry has to find a mechanism for creating awareness about the safety of broiler meat through social media campaigns similar to what was carried out by the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC) for boosting egg consumption.
The government must also step in to provide support to farmer farmers in automation as well as creation of silos for feed storage from the Rs 15,000 crore Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund announced in June 2020.
The industry in collaboration with the government must ensure quality meat supplies which means ensuring the health and safety of broiler birds from farm to retailers. Adherence to biosafety protocol would result in better consumer confidence in livestock products.