Poultry meat production looks set to touch one-million tonne mark for the first time by the end of the current fiscal year.

Investment in poultry farming and expansion in sales network of poultry meat in the last few years has given a boost to local sales and made it the cheapest meat available in the country. To some extent this has provided relief to consumers against a sharp increase in prices of red meat owing to its increasing exports.

At the beginning of this fiscal year, the ministry of national food security and research had projected poultry meat output of 937,000 tonnes, up from 834,000 tonnes in the last year.

But industry sources say that actual production should touch a million-tonne mark by the end of the fiscal year in June 2013.

They say that higher-than-estimated growth is being witnessed in Punjab where poultry farming has lately become more modernised. Punjab alone is set to produce 660,000 tonnes of white meat or 66 per cent of the country’s total output. In the last fiscal year too, Punjab’s share was about 66 per cent or about 550,000 tonnes in absolute terms.

These estimates of Punjab Livestock and Dairy Development Department and of Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA) include both flocks of birds at commercial poultry farms and those being raised by rural household setups or at traditional backyard farms. Poultry production in traditional rural setups is also being gradually modernised as farmer’s income and savings have improved on the back of better agriculture performance in the last few years.

Fresh local investment in poultry farming have now started paying dividends in terms of higher number of poultry birds and increased production of white meat. A part of this investment is said to have been made by those who had earned enough money from the same business and are now expanding production facilities.

But some investment has also come in from abroad, basically in the shape of technical support to poultry feed mills and hatcheries—and to some extent to poultry farms in fighting poultry diseases. “Had the super floods (of July-September 2010) not destroyed countless poultry farms you could have noticed a big difference in the number of farms now in operation and before July 2010,” said an official of Punjab Livestock and Dairy Development Department when asked why the total number of poultry farms in Punjab has rather fallen.

Latest data show that the number of poultry farms in Punjab fell to 22,763 in June 2012 from 23,547 in June 2010. But despite a decline in the number of poultry farms, the average per-farm production of poultry birds has been on the rise with the result that poultry bird population soared from 393 million as of June 2010 to 709 million as of June 2012.

Industry sources say: this is where one can see the results of fresh investment in poultry farming techniques and technologies. Many progressive poultry farmers have, in the last three years, almost doubled the number of poultry population at their farms through a combination of things like reduction in the number of days spent on growing birds and higher ratio of per bird meat.

Bankers say that high growth in livestock sector (which includes poultry farming) has created some demand for bank credit. They admit that certain issues like the collateral quality make it difficult for them to meet full demand but insist that part of the financial requirements of poultry farmers and livestock breeders is being fulfilled by banks.

Latest data show that banks made net fresh loans of Rs4 billion in one year to October 2011 before distributing additional loans of another Rs3 billion in the following year to October 2012. Poultry farmers concede that poultry farms in Sindh have particularly benefited from bank loans in last two years but total financing has fallen short of their actual needs.

Commercial poultry farming has become a major industry and it now meets 40 per cent of the total domestic meat consumption. PPA Chairman Hasan Sarosh Akram says that the industry employs 1.5 million people across the country and is a key job provider in the rural areas.

He says farming suffers from the poor law and order situation, acute power shortages, higher prices of poultry feed and scant resources to combat breakout of poultry diseases which kill thousands of birds in no time. Per capita consumption of poultry meat in Pakistan is around 5kg per year. It is more than half the overall per capita meat consumption of 8kg. “There is room for easily doubling the per capita consumption of poultry meat,” says Mohammad Nazim, a Hyderabad-based poultry farmer.

“This is going to happen sooner than later as poultry meat processing companies grab a bigger share of the market and as prices of red meat rise further on the back of ever-increasing exports,” he told Dawn.

As income levels rise in the countryside one sees larger intake of poultry meat even in remote towns and smaller cities of Sindh and Punjab. Opening up of new branches of KFC, McDonald and other global brands and establishment of local restaurants and eateries are also contributing to higher consumption of value-added poultry meat products.

Of late, a vertically integrated poultry and ready-to-cook food sector companies K& Ns, Mon Salwa (Quick Food Industries) and Season’s Menu have started making their presence felt in local sales and exports of chicken-based food products.

They have extended their networks of retail outlets. K&Ns, for example, now runs 80 shops in 22 major cities of the country. Cities like Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad have seen constant expansion in the company’s retail outlets in the last few years. Recently, K&Ns was selected for case study by Harvard Business School.

Similarly, Quick Food Industries (producer of Mon Salwa brand) now boast of 166 outlets across eight major cities of the country. About a dozen chicken-based Mon Salwa products have helped the company retain its leading position in exports of a wide range of ready-to-cook food items. Seasons Food Ltd (producer of Menu brand) also sells a big variety of ready-to-cook chicken based food products and maintains its own supply chain—from producing poultry birds to processing and freezing its meat and manufacturing chicken-based eatables.—Mohiuddin Aazim

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