Assam bird flu

Guwahati, April 12: The government of Assam in Northeast India has closed its borders to poultry from West Bengal since early March due to bird flu fears in neighboring Jharkhand, causing a sharp fall in the price of dressed chicken in Kolkata.

The price of chicken, which is one of the most popular sources of lean protein in the Bengali diet, has dropped by as much as Rs 100 per kilo in the city since the Assam government’s border closure on March 6.

Poultry owners have resorted to distress sales, leading to reduced prices, and the average middle- and upper-middle-class Kolkatan has benefited from the decreased cost of chicken. However, the ban has resulted in heavy losses for poultry owners, and the reduced price is causing confusion about the cost at which dressed chicken should be sold.

Madan Mohan Maity, the secretary of the Bengal Poultry Federation, called the ban “illegal” as the government of India’s standard operating procedure for such cases is only around 10 days, including culling, and the Assam government’s continuation of the ban beyond that period is illegal.

The Bengal government has requested a reconsideration of the order banning the free movement of poultry, but no reply has been received yet. The reduced price of chicken has struck a balance in the kitchen budget of the average consumer, but some are still wary due to bird flu fears.

Maity has stated that Bengal has not experienced any case of avian flu, nor has there been any unusual mortality in Bengal’s chicken.

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As a result, the price may fall further as poultry farms are making distress sales and losses are mounting daily. Nearly 50% of North Bengal’s poultry production goes to Assam and other northeastern states, with losses in North Bengal exceeding Rs 500 crore.

The standard price of dressed chicken with a balanced profit is Rs 250, and anything below that causes problems for traders.

The outbreak of avian influenza in Jharkhand was notified by the Centre on February 20, prompting the Assam government to shut its borders to poultry from Bengal on March 6. The border closure has cut off the movement of Bengal’s poultry not only to Assam but to all northeastern states.