As you drive through the streets of Angul, you can see people selling chickens at various places. They are being sold for as little as INR 10 per bird (down from the usual price of INR 80-90) and yet, there aren’t many takers. The reason: COVID-19 and the accompanying rumours (mainly on WhatsApp) that chickens carry the coronavirus.
Many households in Angul rear poultry as a way to earn a steady income. Poultry companies give the women of the household baby chicks and enough feed (grain) to sustain them. Once the chicks grow into adult chickens (usually after 2-3 months), the companies buy them back from the families at INR 5 per kg.
Rearing the chicks costs money: they are housed in sheds that need electricity, they need water, and a person to feed them, look after them, and clean the shed.
Typically, most families raise 2,000-3,000 chicks in each cycle. With each bird weighing around 2 kg, they would make anywhere between INR 20,000-30,000 per quarter.
With the demand for chickens dropping dramatically over the past few weeks, companies are no longer buying back the hens, nor are they supplying the households with feed. In one fell swoop, this has destroyed the livelihoods of thousands of people who rely on poultry for their income.
Smarinita Shetty is the CEO and co-founder of IDR.