According to the 17-member strong Sampheling Meday Bja Namrup Detshen (SMBND), poultry farmers are facing a dire shortage of poultry feed due to the border closure. Chairman of SMBND, Budhi Man Rai, said there is also a shortage of ice for freezing the meat products.
He added, “Previously, we used to rely on Indian ice import. We have to send our meat consignments to Thimphu, Punakha, Paro and some other places within a time span of 1 to 2 days. It has been difficult these days.”
The major concern, however, is the shortage of poultry feed. “Among the 17 members, some members own around 2,000 to 3,000 chickens, while others, like myself, own around 6,000 to 7,000 chickens. Due to the lack of feed, the chickens are unhealthy. If that continues, the yield of meat might not be good,” Budhi Man Rai said.
Project Director of Karma Feed Unit, Chencho Wangyal, said he shares the concerns of the poultry farmers. Karma Feed is working hard to reach the feed to all the end users through respective dzongkhag sales distributor agents. He said that there are 2 to 3 sales agents in every dzongkhag.
He said that ever since the lockdown in India and border gate closure, getting the raw materials in on time has been the biggest challenge, and thus their management had to prioritize and strategize on the production of feed for the poultry, layer and broiler as the absence of formulated feeds will result in drastic drop or no production.
“For the time being, we have reduced the production of cattle and pig feeds, as both have some form of alternative methods of feeding, like green fodder and food waste, however, their production and growth will also be hampered due to lack of formatted feed,” he added.
He said that currently there is a stock enough for 2 to 3 days and equal distribution is being done for all the agents.
“Some main raw materials, like Soya De-Oiled cake, which is one of the main inevitable ingredients for inclusion in poultry feeds are running out of stock along with De-oiled Rice Bran and other few feed supplements,” he added.
He clarified if consignments of raw materials due from West Bengal, Rajasthan, Bihar and Assam come in then the production could last up to 20 more days.
Despite the lockdown measure in India, GoI announced and included poultry feeds and poultry ingredients under essential list for unhampered transportation. However, he expressed that the drivers are being harassed by locals and the interstate police on their own accord of understanding of the restrictions and that the consignments are being delayed due to that.
He said that currently the movement of consignments are being entertained on reaching Jaigoan by the joint collective decisions made by Association of Bhutan Industries (ABI) in due consultation with the competent authorities of various government agencies and the conducive SOP in place.
According to him, there is an approximate increase in demand for feed by 5 – 10 percent prior to lockdown in India and that hoarding was taking place initially. They hope to see a further increase in demand given the current situation.
When it comes to famers, agents and buyers, Chencho Wangyal said that they should understand the situation well given that only lime stone powder among the 23 necessary raw material ingredient is available within the country. All the other ingredients have to be imported from India and the amino acids from 3 other countries.
He said that given the current scenario, they are doing their best to make the feed supply available to all the users to ensure that the Bhutanese farmers can maintain their livelihood and income as well supply sufficient livestock products for the consumers in Bhutan.
He added, “We need to ensure continuous production of animal feeds; this is only possible if the farmers have sufficient animal feed for their farms. Over and above, as requested and appealed to concern authorities, if we may be permitted to import necessary raw materials to ensure production of animal feeds for the domestic market, there should not be any problem in manufacturing and continuous supply of feeds.”
In regard to ice availability, the Agriculture Minister Yeshey Penjor said that, if required, the ice will be available within the country at cold beverage production units and Serbithang.
Meanwhile, meat vendors are seeing less numbers of customers in Thimphu. The vendors had anticipated that there would be quite a rush of people after the religious meat ban was lifted.
Tendem Frozen Meat employee said that currently the demand for meat at their shop is comparatively low. He said that he has reason to believe that people are avoiding meat as a precautionary measure against COVID-19.
While most meat vendors said that they have frozen chicken and other local meat items like pork and beef readily available, they shared that people come looking for fresh meat and that frozen meat was not a preferable option.
Lham’s Meat Shop employee said that the stock was available at their supplier’s disposal, however, they are uncertain whether to bring in more meat since people aren’t buying much and do not want to settle for frozen meat quality.
The current rates for local chicken range from Nu 220 – Nu 280 per kg in most shops, while the price for local pork is available from Nu 250 – Nu 400 per kg in different shops and beef prices are likely to be around Nu 300 per kg.
Dagana meat shop employee told us that they are out of beef stock, even their suppliers from Tsirang and Dagana reported to have less meat for sale.