Central team to visit bird flu-hit areas of Kerala tomorrow, culling of ducks continue

With the culling of ducks continuing in bird flu-hit areas of Alappuzha and Kottayam in Kerala for the second consecutive day, the Union government has decided to rush a team of experts to the state on Thursday, the state animal husbandry department said.

The state government has also announced relief for affected farmers– they will be given Rs 100 for each culled duck. Officials have started collecting details of culled birds, said a senior official of the department. In three days at least 46,000 birds will be culled in Alappuzha 38,000 and 8000 in Kottayam. There is a ban on trading of ducks till further notice in the two districts, he said.

Surrounded by many water bodies, in Alappuzha and surrounding areas duck farming is popular– eggs of ducks are almost double the price of chicken eggs and duck meat is a delicacy in many areas of the state. In Kuttanad and other areas people encourage duck farming because pecking birds are good for paddy cultivation as they clear farms of pests and their foray gives a tilling effect to muddy soil. Kuttanad is known as the rice bowl of Kerala.

“I suffered major losses. I lost around 20,000 birds in the last one week. I bought 10,000 ducklings only two weeks back. I took bank loans and money from lenders to fund my farming. Compensation from the government is meagre,” said K Kuttappayi, a farmer in Alappuzha. Farming for the last four decades, he said the recurring epidemic was posing a big challenge for poultry farmers.

On Tuesday, the government had declared bird flu as a state disaster and rapid response teams were deployed for culling and surveillance of the affected areas. And strict controls have been imposed to contain the H5N8 strain of flu. State animal husbandry minister K Raju convened a meeting in Alappuzha on Wednesday and he will be camping in the district for two days, said his office. As an after-effect, prices of chicken plummeted in the state and chicken traders said there is a 40 per cent dip in sales. Many neighbouring states have also put restrictions on chickens from Kerala.

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