Bird watching: Poultry prices likely to break your nest egg

With chicken to cost an extra 30% this Eid, wholesale dealers say they have no control over prices set in Punjab

Price list issued by Muttahida Poultry Market Association. PHOTO: SOHAIL KHATTAK/EXPRESS

PESHAWAR: Poultry lovers in the city are likely to be disappointed this Eid. As special menus are planned to line dinner tables with delicacies, the one thing that will be missed by many is the celebratory staple, chicken karahi.

According to market watchers, chicken prices are expected to increase by over 30% this Eid in the face of a three-fold rise in its demand. There is also a shortage of chicken at local poultry farms as Newcastle disease – which is also called Ranikhet, the name of the town in India where the virus was first detected – has killed thousands of birds.

Spoilers from broilers

Speaking to The Express Tribune, representatives of Muttahida Poultry Market Association (MPMA) said chicken is mostly supplied to Peshawar from Okara, Talagang and Lahore in Punjab.

Mistri Khan, a 66-year-old wholesale dealer in Chargano Chowk, said 70 trucks containing broilers from Punjab supply chicken to markets every day. “Each truck carries around 900 to 1,000 chickens.”

Wholesale dealers in the city cannot determine the price of chicken. “It is not in our hands,” Mistri said, pointing to a price list he received from the supplier. “The prices are decided by our suppliers in Punjab; they add transport charges to the market rates. The current price is Rs184 per kilogramme but I have a feeling prices will rise to Rs240.”

Chicken little

According to Mistri, most poultry birds at farms across the city have been badly affected by Newcastle disease.

“At least 3,000 chicks died at my farm on Warsak Road,” he said. “Most farm owners in the province have decided to opt out of the business as there aren’t many vaccines available to cure such diseases.” Mistri added, “Some of them believe there is no need to remain in a business in which there are no gains. As it is, a steady supply of chicken is coming from Punjab.”

Malik Sher, another dealer at Chargano Chowk, told The Express Tribune a majority of birds at large farms in Peshawar and Mardan have been affected by the virus. However, Sher said, the government failed to take an initiative to bring farm owners out of their predicament.

“If the government had made suitable arrangements to assist local farm owners, prices would not have increased,” he said. “I want to sell chicken under Rs100 per kilogramme. But we have no choice.”

Profits and losses

According to Sher, chickens which are imported from Punjab tend to be scrawny as each shipment of chickens loses roughly 100 kilogrammes of weight. Chickens need food throughout the journey so they do not lose weight, said Sher.

Sher added dealers earn Rs2 per kilogramme of chicken. “It is our rightful profit,” he said. “However, profits tend to fluctuate. I lost Rs900,000 around 15 days ago when 9,000 chickens in my farm contracted Ranikhet.”

MPMA Vice President Mohammad Tariq said a majority of farm owners who supplied chickens to Peshawar incurred losses worth millions of rupees before Ramazan.

“They bought the chicks at high prices but failed to sell them at appropriately inflated prices,” he said. “I strongly urge the livestock department to help farm owners purchase chicken at reasonable prices, make provisions for chicken feed and ensure vaccines in the market.”

According to Tariq, prices could be brought under control and more chicken could be supplied to people if these measures are implemented.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 14th, 2015. 

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