The three-day Poultry India Expo 2018, billed as the sector's largest event in South Asia, took off in Hyderabad on Wednesday. It has attracted 350 exhibitors, including 80 from abroad; ranging from those involved in breeding operations, feed, pharmaceutical and equipment manufacturers. Most in the audience during the inauguration clapped at the pictures of solidarity on stage between various stakeholders--specially the industry representatives and the representatives from the government. But in private and off the record, those from the industry stated that a lot was lacking in terms of action on the policy and the enforcement.
To the industry the pressing need today is its hope from the government to back it in the courts against the animal welfare groups. They want the government to take a stand so that this does not affect the economic viability of the sector and the egg pricing. Many stakeholders argue that input prices have been rising at a faster pace than that of the egg prices since 2008. They clearly see their fate linked to the stand the government takes before the Delhi High court, which is hearing the case raised by animal welfare organisations on a re-look at the system of holding the birds in cages.
Those from the industry, Business Today spoke to felt as many as around 75 per cent of the farms in the country followed the practice of providing a minimum of 450 square centimetre space per bird, which many felt was in tune with what was largely recognised globally. Many also had cage size of a minimum 1400 square centimetre, which enabled the birds (three in a cage) to completely spread their wings. "We are being told that a better option would be to have the birds in the open and on the ground, this will not only mean that huge tracks of land would be needed but then such an option could also trigger new health concerns," says Harish Garware, President, Indian Poultry Equipment Manufacturers Association.
He and some others argue that the industry might be willing to increase the cage sizes from around 450 square centimetres today to about 550 square centimetres in certain cases but not more since that could make it viable for many. Therefore, the hope among some of the industry players is that the government would make a strong case before the court in support of the industry.
But then, what about other issues in the industry that are bothering consumers? Business Today spoke to some of the owners of poultry farms and there were two major concerns where self-correction or caution by the industry is just not working. These are related to unchecked use of antibiotics and the other was to improve the bio-security practises, which manages the people and material flow into the farms. It is hard not to believe when some of them find the usage quite indiscriminate because even for humans, there is arguably quite a bit of recklessness. India in poultry, many feel needs to follow the UK model where every prescription by the veterinary doctor is tracked and correlated. Today apparently, the use of antibiotics in the poultry industry is not getting recorded.