In a significant development for India’s rural landscape, the latest provisional data of 20th livestock census shows a sharp increase in backyard poultry birds between 2012 and 2019, as compared to rise in birds from commercial poultry farms.
Number of India’s poultry birds has risen from 729.2 million to 851.8 million, an increase of almost 17 per cent, shows the data.
The census was launched in October 2018.
The data shows that the number of backyard poultry birds has risen by a staggering 46 per cent between 2012 to 2019.
These include, fowls, ducks, emu, turkeys, quail and other birds.
Number of poultry birds from commercial farms, which are typically located near urban areas has risen by 4.5 per cent during the same period.
Though, the contribution of backyard poultry in India’s total poultry population is still less than 40 per cent of the total population and majority of the birds still come from commercial farms, experts say the sharp growth in its population reflects an interesting development.
Backyard poultry is typically owned by small and marginal farmer and comprises of few birds produce, largely self-consumed and very small quantities get commercially sold.
"In several states; governments have been incentivising backyard poultry by distributing free birds, the numbers probably reflect that," Rickey Thaper, treasurer of Poultry Federation of India (PFI) said.
He termed the development as extremely ‘positive’ for the Indian eggs and poultry industry as it provides an added incentive for the small and farmers to rear birds.
“The demand for millets and other nutria-cereals will also increase as more and more farmers are shifting towards high value animal protein either for self-consumption or for commercial purposes,” Thaper said.
India is the world’s third largest eggs producer of the world and annually produces around 75 billion eggs, of which bulk comes from commercial farms.
The egg production in the country is growing at a healthy rate of 5-6 per cent, while the broiler meat production is rising at 7-8 per cent.
“The rise in backyard poultry numbers is quite fascinating if true, but needs further in-depth information on them as they could at best be estimates,” said Suresh Chitturi, Vice Chairman & Managing Director of Srinivasa Farms and Chairman of the International Egg Commission.
Dairy and livestock expert, Dr R S Khanna said that there could be two reasons for the spike in backyard poultry numbers; one a very strong impetus by some state governments to promote as an alternative method of livelihood for small farmers and second the data collection this time could have been more robust.