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OP-ED: How chickens can save us

  • Published at 09:18 pm October 3rd, 2020
Egg
Good for the brain MEHEDI HASAN

The poultry industry can greatly improve our health and improve livelihoods 

There has been substantial progress in creating employment and reducing poverty and malnutrition in Bangladesh over the last few decades. However, unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition are still problems in our country. Several socio-economic development activities are being carried out in our country by the government, NGOs, and the private sector for further improvement of the situation.

The poultry industry is playing a significant role in this regard and it is now considered as one of the more vibrant sectors in creating both direct and indirect employment opportunities as well as improving food security, livelihood, nutrition, poverty alleviation, and healthy lives in Bangladesh. Poultry farming is now treated as a more profitable business for the farmers compared to other sectors because the demand for poultry products is increasing day by day.

However, the farmers, especially small-holder farmers, need greater access to finance, training, innovation, and technology to improve their livelihoods and production. According to the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Central Committee, the total investment in the poultry sector is about Tk35,000 crore ($4.12 billion).

The production of meat and eggs has increased almost one and a half times over five years. The poultry industry has also contributed to several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), playing a role to end poverty, achieving zero hunger, good health and well-being, good jobs and economic growth, responsible consumption, climate action, etc.

However, Covid-19 has seriously affected the entire poultry value chain and created an unwanted mismatch between the demand and supply of poultry products. One estimation found that it resulted in about 30% drop in day-old chicks, eggs, and meat production in our country.

Therefore, the poultry farmers, private sector, service providers, the government, and other stakeholders are adopting appropriate coping mechanisms to overcome the situation in terms of supply of inputs and sale of final products.

Commercial poultry production

In the 1980s, small-scale poultry rearing was initially started by NGOs, especially Brac, and later, several private sector organizations entered in the early 1990s. Poultry farming gradually transformed from subsistence to commercial farming. The government, private sector, and other stakeholders realized that poultry rearing can play signifcant roles in poverty alleviation, improving food and nutrition security, and increasing income and livelihoods of farmers, especially for the youth and women in this country.

Although the commercial layer and broiler farms had commenced in the 1990s, the major expansion occurred gradually after the 2000s because of the increased demand for eggs and meat.

There are about one hundred breeder farms and hatcheries, eight grandparent stock farms, 70,000 commercial layer and broiler farms, over 200 feed mills, and 500 animal health companies in this country. The breeder farms produced about 700 million day-old broilers and 4.7 million layers of day-old chicks in 2019.

Poultry for improving livelihood

Poultry plays an important role in improving livelihood and poverty alleviation in our country. Depending on the farm size, poultry farming is the main source of family income for many; it also creates additional employment opportunities in communities.

It has created employment for over 6 million people, most of them being the youth and women. It is the second largest employment sector in Bangladesh. Bill Gates stated that, “If you care about the poorest, you care about agriculture.” Now we can see the reflection of this statement in the poultry industry because it has significantly contributed to increase income and improve the livelihood of thousands of people in our country.

According to the World Bank, “Agriculture is up to four times more effective than other sectors in reducing poverty.” A functional value chain has been created in the poultry industry and linked multiple actors which include farmers, traders, processors, breeders, feed mills, etc. Most of the farms are in rural areas but they sell their products in the urban market which allow money to flow from urban to rural areas. It is also helping to make the rural economy much stronger.

Poultry for food security, better health, and nutrition

Poultry production is the fastest growing agricultural sub-sector, especially in developing countries like Bangladesh. It makes a substantial contribution to food security and nutrition, providing energy, protein, and essential micronutrients to humans, with short production cycles and the ability to convert a wide range of agri-food by-products.

The consumption of meat and eggs has been increasing in our country due to rising incomes as well as due to higher availability and affordability. BPICC reported that, despite difficult challenges faced by the poultry industry, the overall production of poultry products has increased by about 10% on average over the last 5 years.

Poultry meat and eggs are the cheapest sources of high-quality proteins available in our country compared to more expensive sources like beef and fish, which also help to boost up the immune system. As per the report of WPSA- BB (2017), it was shown that the price of beef and mutton had increased by 19% and 33% respectively whereas broiler prices have increased only by 2% over the last 5 years.

According to the DLS & BPICC report (2019), the country was producing approximately 46.9 million eggs and 3.1 million kgs of poultry meat per day in 2019 compared to 30.1 million eggs and 2.2 million kgs poultry meat per day in 2015. The average poultry meat consumption has significantly increased over the 5 years, which is about 7kgs per person per year but is still lower than the requirement.

The average egg consumption per person per year is now about 103 which is almost close to the targeted recommended number of 104. DLS & BPICC (2020) stated that about 40% of animal protein comes from poultry.

Protein is necessary for a) the strengthening and building of muscles and tissues (b) development of the brain (c) being a source of energy (d) production of important enzymes and hormones (e) forming antibodies that help to prevent infection, illness, and disease.

Chicken meat and eggs are the main product of the poultry industry and it denotes a major part of animal protein consumed by humans. Benefits of poultry meat are: a) Low in total fat and cholesterol, thus no risk of hypertension, stroke, heart disease b) people of any age can consume it (3) chicken soup is good for people who are ill (4) easily digestible, rich in vitamins, and minerals.

Moreover, eggs are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acid, which helps to maintain brain function, especially in pregnant women and infants. According to Dr ABM Abdullah, “Eggs are for everybody and for all ages.”

Conclusion

There is a fundamental relationship between poultry production and nutrition. Eggs and poultry meat are natural, affordable, high-quality protein sources which can be taken at any age, even during pregnancy. Poultry is playing an important role in improving livelihoods as well as ensuring nutrition and healthy lives.

We should take care of the poultry industry so that it may produce safe and healthy food for the population. Not everyone is a farmer, yet we all must eat. Thus, we all depend on those who produce our food. We must remain grateful to our farmers.

Dr Md A Saleque is Chief Technical Advisor and Dr FH Ansarey is Managing Director & CEO, ACI Agribusiness.

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