Growing poultry industry
Going by what’s eaten on Pune’s streets, chicken doesn’t lag vada pav, bhel, dabheli or dosa. Please to note that none of the veg options, barring the last, is really a healthy option: it’s just a quick bite on the run. Chicken, as consumed on the street, too, is not at its healthiest being a deep-fried patty stuffed into white bread (bun).
Yet, chicken is a growth sector. Industry veteran OP Singh maintains growth of this segment of the agriculture economy is a conservative compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 6 per cent or more for the next few years. (CAGR refers to the average annual growth rate of an investment over a set period of time usually longer than a year). That growth, he insists, is unavoidable and will come from the affordability, availability and convenience couple with the fact that there are no socio-religious inhibitions surrounding its consumption.
There are challenges to this sector as in any other business and the one challenge no one seems to be paying much attention is the one being mounted from outside the country. That call, of allowing entry for produce from other countries, is getting stronger as our numbers excite the rest. This may be the last large market remaining where growth is happening.
The challenges that the poultry industry faces range from the internal, namely its structure to the need for more openness about its inputs (corn and soya are the main inputs the prices of which are unpredictable and opaque bringing uncertainty) to cost-effective production here preparing industry to go global.
The likelihood of India emerging as an international poultry player is worrying established overseas players. If the Indian poultry industry gets its cost-effectiveness and quality right, it could be a daunting international player. This worrying element has added to the international calls for India to open up her markets for chicken imports.
Even should imports be allowed, there are hurdles because international players are believed to use genetically- modified inputs and meat meal in the feed formulation, all of which form a kind of natural non-tariff barrier to imports. There is also our vibrant live chicken market posing its own challenges.
All of this came to mind not just because we have these huge nutritional issues which the protein-rich meat could resolve, but also because an ambassador-designate was reportedly briefed to ensure he opens up the Indian market for home country poultry exports. Coupled with these issues was the news of a domestic poultry company going public, raising funds from the market. This is being welcomed as it mainstreams the industry and we could perhaps see the creation of infrastructure in the form of cold chains with storage facilities etc., and an efficient distribution network. The hope, of course, is that there will be a rub off on the agri-horti sectors which need this just as much.
The growth in chicken consumption, as displayed by street-side vendors’ menus is a fairly recent phenomenon; this was not the case just a few years ago. These non-veg-selling the las and casual eateries were then limited to just a few select areas. Now, they are on every street and each has his own captive market, a sure sign that they’ve arrived. The next step is to give up the greasy version and go healthy.