Amid the coronavirus outbreak, poultry farmers in the state of Tamil Nadu are facing heavy loses with lesser people opting to buy chicken. Now with the spread of bird flu in Kerala, poultry farmers in Tamil Nadu have been hit hard.
On Sunday, 1,700 poultry and pet birds were culled in Kerala to curtail the spread of the bird flu.
R Ganesan President of Madurai K Pudur Chamber of Commerce says sales have gone down about 75%, gradually over a period of two weeks. â€śChicken that was being sold for Rs 170-180 per kilo is now priced at Rs 75-80. A number of people buying it have drastically come down,â€ť he says.
Ganesan says that the main reason for this drop is due to the spread of fake news that consuming chicken could affect one with coronavirus. Not more than two-weeks ago, a man in Tamil Nadu's Cuddalore district was arrested for spreading rumours that coronavirus spreads through chickens. The 18-year-old man from Neyveli had reportedly acted out of vengeance for having been refused free meat at his friend's shop.
Coronavirus that was first transmitted to humans from an animal species, that is yet unknown, is now spread person-to-person. This means the virus can spread only from someone who has already been infected by it.
â€śSecondly, this is also the season for exams and Christians observing Lent abstain from eating meat. This season is generally slow in sales for us. But the recent fake news plus the bird flu in Kerala has caused our sales to dip further,â€ť he alleges.
AKP Chinraj, President of Tamil Nadu Poultry Farmers' Association based out of Namakkal, a district that is considered to be the top producer in chicken and eggs, says production costs have reached unmanageable numbers. â€śToday, the feed for chicken costs Rs 65 per kilo but farm rate of 1 kilo of chicken is only Rs 15. If one bird weighs about 2 kilos, it means we incur a loss of Rs 130 per chicken. Hatching chicks and growing them has now become a huge challenge,â€ť he explains.
Both Ganesan and Chinraj are of the opinion that people will have to be educated that coronavirus cannot be spread through the consumption of chicken or eggs. â€śIf it is true that coronavirus is spreading through these birds, shouldnâ€™t we be the first ones to be affected? Why would we still be in business? Isnâ€™t our health of more importance to us?â€ť asks Ganesan. He further explains that the cooking method used in India is such that the chicken is boiled and cooked fully ensuring that no virus can survive in our cooking methods.
Dr Pawan Kumar, veterinarian in Cessna Lifeline Veterinary Hospital also brushed away fears of poultry being affected by coronavirus. "This virus is very fragile that with the normal boiling heat of chicken, it cannot survive. Hence there is no need to worry about consuming chicken fearing coronavirus infection," he added.
As for the spread of bird flu from Kerala, Ganesan further explains that there are no chances of bird flu spreading to the chicks in Tamil Nadu from Kerala. â€śBirds are supplied from Tamil Nadu to Kerala, not the other way around. Bird feed too come from here and not from Kerala. There are no chances of bird flu being spread to the birds in TN. Kerala too is taking strict steps to cull infected birds,â€ť he added.
Unlike other flus, bird flu does not spread person-to-person. For someone to be affected by bird-flu they will have to be in close contact with the infected bird and the bird droppings. Transmission of this virus from consuming fully cooked bird meat is unlikely.