NEW DELHI: Poultry industry experts say chicken sales have declined by nearly 35 per cent in recent weeks even as the government mounts efforts to counter rumours that deadly coronavirus can be transmitted by consuming it.
District magistrates at Lucknow and Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh last week issued orders to ban the sale of meat in open areas. As a result, many restaurants and hotels have put up notices asking consumers to not ask for non-vegetarian products.
Several wholesalers and food companies to whom ANI spoke said chicken sales have fallen by 30 to 35 per cent. The prices of broiler chicken have fallen by over 50 per cent, they said.
"It is because of irresponsible statements being issued by some government departments which has led people to exclude chicken from their diet," said Rajiv Jaisinghani, Managing Director of Punjab-based Darshan Foods Pvt Ltd.
Karnataka has been suffering a daily loss of about Rs 65 crore loss since rumours surrounding coronavirus started doing rounds on social media in early February, said D K Kantaraju, President of Karnataka Cooperative Poultry Federation.
"From the first week of February, prices of chicken have come down to Rs 45 from Rs 75 per kg," he said.
Vasant Kumar Shetty, President of Poultry Farmers and Breeders Association in Maharashtra, said the decline in demand and price of livestock has been leading to a loss of Rs 150 crore per day to the state poultry industry. The sales are unlikely to pick up in next six weeks.
Prices of wholesale poultry chicken in Ghazipur, the largest meat market in Delhi, have dropped by over 45 per cent in the last four weeks.
"Though the prices fluctuate on a daily basis, we have been selling chicken at about Rs 55 since the first case of coronavirus was confirmed in Kerala. In January, prices of broiler chicken stood at around Rs 90 per kg," said Mohsin, a wholesale trader.
Ashique, owner of Alpha Chicken Suppliers, said he used to sell about 13.5 tonnes of chicken a day till January-end. "Now, the sale hardly crosses 4.5 tonnes per day. Our business is badly hit," he said.
Some consumers too said they are avoiding consuming chicken and meat as a precautionary measure. "No one exactly knows about coronavirus, so far so better to avoid it," said Surbhi outside a restaurant in Connaught Place.
Animal Husbandry Commissioner Praveen Malik said in a letter to the Poultry Federation of India last week that poultry is not found to be involved in the transmission of coronavirus to humans. "Poultry has not been found to be involved in the transmission of 2019 nCov to humans so far in any report globally," he said.