Bird flu: Goa bans transportation of birds from Maharashtra, Karnataka. Image Source: IANS News

New Delhi, Jan 24 : For the first time, the number of states affected by the outbreak of bird flu has reached double digits in India, although wild birds are worst affected by this disease. The poultry trade has not yet recovered from the outbreak. However, the demand for chicken at hotels and restaurants has seen an improvement over the previous week.

Though, bird flu has been confirmed in poultry birds in nine states, but its impact is quite low. Experts point out that the new avian influenza virus is not dangerous to humans.

The poultry industry of the country had not yet recovered fully due to the havoc caused by Covid-19, and now the recent outbreak of bird flu at the beginning of the year has severely affected the poultry business. Despite the elaborate arrangements made by the central and state government agencies for prevention of outbreak of bird flu, it is safe to eat cooked chicken and eggs. The difficulties faced by poultry farmers have not subsided as they have been forced to sell cocks of Rs 100 at Rs 50.

The Commissioner of Animal Husbandry in the Union Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairy, Praveen Malik, told IANS that bird flu cases were first detected in India in 2006, but till now it was reported in a small number of states simultaneously, but this time its reporting has been good, leading to its number rising in many states. States have shown promptness in reporting and conducting control campaigns against the virus.

He said that wherever the avian influenza has been confirmed in poultry birds, with the cooperation of the central government teams, the states have taken all the precautionary measures, including culling of birds.

According to an investigation report by the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, the infection in birds had been confirmed in 13 states of the country as on Saturday, including in the poultry birds across nine states. Among these bird flu in ducks have been found in Kerala while it has been detected in poultry in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.

At the same time, bird flu in wild birds has been confirmed in 12 states. Malik said the new virus which has emerged is not very dangerous as there are no reports of its affecting humans.

The virus by which the bird flu usually spreads is H5N1 while this time there have also been cases of H5N8 infection.

Poultry Federation of India President, Ramesh Khatri, said the fear of bird flu has affected the poultry industry's business in north India by nearly 50 per cent, while the business of poultry farmers in other parts of the country was affected by nearly 30 to 40 per cent.

At the same time, retail sales of chicken are definitely low but its price is not that low as chicken is being sold at Rs 230 to 250 per kg in Delhi-NCR.

The demand for chicken in hotels and restaurants was less a week ago, but now it has increased. Inderjit Singh, the director of 20 restaurant chains in Delhi, said the demand for chicken in his restaurant is starting to pick up now while non-vegetarian food lovers are demanding chicken as there is no panic among them about bird flu.

The demand for chicken has also increased in 'Panda Kitchen' restaurant in Gurugram. Panda Kitchen operator Rajan Gupta said the price of chicken has also risen now. However, a week ago, chicken was sold at Rs 120 to 150 per kg, which is now being sold at more than than Rs 200.

Experts say that before the coronavirus pandemic crisis last year, the annual turnover of the poultry industry in India was nearly Rs 1.25 lakh crore, which has now been reduced to half the amount due to the rumours spread during the coronavirus crisis.

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