LAHORE - Chicken prices are going beyond Rs200 per kg because of the potential hatchery cartel - established recently and still to unearth - is selling chick of one-day at the rate of Rs 73 while it costs them round Rs 14-15. This extraordinary price hike has made the poultry meat out of reach of the already inflated-stricken people. Pakistan Poultry Association spokesman was of the view that this hike in chicken meat is on account of skyrocketing price of poultry feed which was increased up to 82 percent in the recent past. It is to be noted that over Rs200 billion has been invested in the poultry industry which has created job opportunities for over 1.5 million local people while there are many other sectors which interlinked with this industry. The volume and importance of this industry could be judge by the fact that the industry uses agricultural grains worth Rs50 billion annually. A dealer from Gujranwala, seeking anonymity, disclosed that over 10 big breeding companies which deals in 'day-old-broiler have had their own farms set up. When live broiler price plummeted on account of 'supply-demand phenomenon, they never pass on the benefits to consumers. Instead these companies that included K&N, Sabir, Hitech, SB and Jadeed have had their own network across the country, use this breed for their own farms. They have the ability and capacity to proscribe the breeders for more than 10 days for their own farms. In this way, the ratio of small poultry farmers across the country, who are bound to close their farms, is increasing day-by-day. A report recently published revealed that over 50 per cent of poultry farms have been closed due to feed price hike and increase in one-day-old chick price. Mohammad Suhail, a poultry farm owner of Lahore, was of the view that he is contemplating changing the mode of business as it is becoming more difficult to keep poultry business on because of extraordinary production cost. Another owner of Gujranwala, Mohammad Arshad said that one-day-older chick cost Rs15 per piece to breeding companies, if they sell their product at 100 per cent profit margin which is round Rs 30-32, the masses would find chicken meat around Rs 150 which is, though, out of the reach of common people but still affordable for them. It is sheer injustice that poultry meat was the only reasonably priced meat after beef, mutton and fish is becoming out of reach of the common people because of exorbitant prices. Government should intervene and take measures to reduce these irrational rates of one-day-old broiler chick and ultimately provide poultry meat to masses on affordable prices, he added. Babar Khan, a poultry farmer in Gujranwala was of the view that due to the cartel of private breeding companies, they are getting one-day-old chick at the rate of Rs73 while its cost of production would be below Rs15. He said that due to the unbearable cost, large number of poultry farms are being closed rendering hundreds of workers jobless. He further said that due to such hegemony the poor farmers with low investment are being crushed and are bound to shift their businesses. He opined that poultry farmers and distributors should totally boycott the purchase of one-day-old broiler chicks till the government take measures and fix 'day-old chick rate round Rs20-25. In this regard, he said, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif and Chief Justice Supreme Court of Pakistan Chaudhry Iftikhar Muhammad while taking stern action against these hoarding companies compel them to sell the chicks under control price keeping in view to give relief to all stakeholders.