By Senashia Ekanayake
The All Island Poultry Association has faulted the industry’s setback in 2010 to the Government’s decision to rely on imports.
“Importation of chicken and eggs during Christmas was a wrong measure taken and is regarded as a reason that contributed towards the decrease in the poultry sector in its share of GDP from 0.9% to 0.8% as stated in Central Bank Annual Report 2010,” Association Chairman Dr. D. D. Wanasinghe told the Daily FT.
At present Sri Lanka’s consumption of chicken is equivalent to its production, which stands at approximately 95 kg million a year. The Central Bank Annual Report noted that poultry production had increased by 5,000 MT to 104,000 MT in 2010 while the Poultry Association stated that it increased from 7,500MT to 9,500MT a month in December 2010.
There are 27,000 small-scale farmer families producing chicken and eggs in the island. Whilst 60% of the chickens are produced by the large scale producers as broiler chicken production is more economical, 60% of the egg production is by small scale farmers, Dr. Wanasinghe noted.
While the Annual Report stated that the decrease in the agriculture share of GDP from 10.9% to 10.7% was due to “manifestation of growth thrust on other sectors in the economy,” Dr. Wanasinghe affirmed that the import from India of approximately 500 MT of chicken and 10 million eggs, which marginalised and eventually drew away nearly 10-15% small scale farmers.
“This may have been primary reason for the growth rate to be affected,” he said, adding that the threat of avian flu that prevailed may have also contributed towards the drop in production.
Dr. Wanasinghe also went on to say that the imports were done just after the avian flu ban was lifted and that three weeks later, a case of avian flu was reported. He added that the imports arrived after the actual Christmas demand was fulfilled and were therefore not required.
Commenting on the present status of the imports that arrived at the beginning of this year, he remarked that the chicken was in cold storage and that the eggs of three-month shelf life were destroyed as they had expired.
The Association Chief opined that for the poultry contribution to GDP to grow, it was important for the parental stock to increase by 12% this year. The 2010 production of day-old broiler and layer chicks were respectively 85 and 5.5 million.
It was noted that with the increase of the parent stock population, the number of day old chicks would increase, thereby resulting in an overall rise in the production of poultry. He added that this measure had to be taken due to the present decline seen in the parent stock, which has been caused due to layer hatcheries being converted into broiler hatcheries, which are more profitable.
However, he remarked that the prediction may take longer than expected as the layer population was inadequate in number.
“The parent population is down due to the import restrictions that were imposed due to avian flu. This scenario would have been avoided if the Ministries of Health, Animal Production and Livestock Development took precautionary measures when necessary.”
He went on to say that whilst the current layer population stood at 900,000, producers anticipated a 20% increase this year.