Ali Abdullah

SIALKOT - Small poultry farmers have criticised the big farmers’ role in “controlling and manipulating” the prices of chicken across the country, saying that the latter have turned into mafia which is hitting the formers hard.

They said that there were more than 3,000 poultry farms in Sialkot district while only 1,600 were functional and the remaining had been closed down. Jamshed, Ghayas, Babar, Saleem and Irfan said that the big poultry farmers were the biggest mafia in the country. They said that poultry was very profitable business. However, they added, the industry was at the verge of destruction due to lack of governmental patronage.

“One-day chick is considered to be more sensitive than a human baby of the same age. The farmers take care of it like their own kids. A 50kg bag of feed costs Rs2,350 while 70 bags are required to feed 1,000 chicks for 40 days. Thus, one chick takes feed worth Rs164.5 in 40 days till 1.75kg weight. There is also at least Rs5-7 expense of medicine on each chick. In addition, building rent, utility bills, labourers’ salaries etc also affect the cost of chicken,” they said. Saleem Yusuf, another farmer, said that chicken price fluctuates daily like that of gold as there was no governmental authority to regulate the prices. He said that when the big farmers’ own birds got ready for sale, they increase the price to get handsome profits but when their birds were undergrowth, they decrease the price to affect the small farmers.

“A 1.75-kg chick costs a farmer Rs236 which means that per kg cost of one bird is Rs134.85. If the daily rate is fixed at Rs140 per kg, the owner will get Rs5.15 a kg profit. If the birds are ready to be sold and the rate falls to Rs100 or Rs110, there will be miserable consequences,” said Saleem.

He further said that the owners were bound to sell their chicks on the 40th day else they would have to bear another day’s cost of feed while there was no surety that per/kg price would increase or decrease on the next day. This is how the investment of a small farmer was wasted most of the time, he noted.

He said that the big farmers were safe from any loss as they were also running poultry associations or had contacts with brokers. However, he added, the small farmers have to suffer heavy losses when chicken price decreases. He detailed that hundreds of farms had been closed down by poor farmers including Anwar Butt of Hundal, Sialkot Rana Imran of Kotli Marlan, Daska and Ubaidullah Bandesha of Jamke Cheema because of manipulation of poultry prices.

According to Saifullah, the chairman of Market Committee Sialkot, “We ask a few big farmers about per kg rate of chicken every day and the price determined by them was included in the rate list. It is a general practice and I do not know wherefrom the big farmers get this rate.”

Abid, a broker of Wazirabad, fixes daily rate of chicken in Gujranwala Division. “The rate is decided in consultation with other markets in Lahore, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi as per the demand and supply principle,” he said.

To a question as to who allows him to fix the daily chicken rates, Abid said, “Earlier, his deceased father Mehmood used to control the price for the whole region and now, I (Abid) perform the duty because we are the largest brokers in this region.” However, he denied the allegations of saving the interests of big farmers. He stressed the need for governmental patronage of the industry.