The animal husbandry department has started preventive operations; it began culling birds on Tuesday morning. The state government has banned entry into bird sanctuaries.
At a meeting in Thiruvananthapuram on Tuesday, the government decided to offer compensation of Rs 75 for each infant duck culled and Rs 150 for grown ones. The department estimates about 200,000 ducks will be culled across 14 locations in Kuttanad.
From Monday, the animal husbandry department started 24-hour control rooms at various areas in the region to coordinate efforts to control the spread of the virus.
A central government team is likely to visit Thiruvalla in Pathanamthitta to probe the death of hundreds of birds in that area.
Tests of samples of dead birds, conducted at an animal disease laboratory in Bhopal, had confirmed avian influenza virus (H-5 category) led to the death of about 15,000 ducks in Kuttanad in Alappuzha and Kottayam, said a senior official of the state animal husbandry department.
A team of veterinarians had already been deputed to affected areas to take the steps required to contain the spread of the disease, said V Brhamanandan, the department’s director.
Surveillance has been stepped up within a 10-km radius of the areas in which ducks were reported to have died in large numbers; birds within a km of the affected areas will be culled. The area within a five-km radius has been declared a buffer zone, where the movement of poultry and allied products won’t be allowed.
Brhamanandan said the sale of eggs and duck meat from affected areas had been banned temporarily.
Those rearing ducks have protested against the move to cull the birds, demanding higher compensation.
Earlier, the central government had decided on a compensation package of Rs 37 for each duck culled. But poultry farmers had demanded higher compensation, saying the package offered was low compared to the market price. According to K A Cheiryan, who rears ducks, the market price for a duck is Rs 250-275 and this is expected to rise to Rs 350 during the Christmas-New Year season. He told Business Standard poultry farmers should get at least Rs 200 for each bird culled.
Meanwhile, the sale of bird meat, especially chicken, has seen a rapid decline. A retail chicken stockist here said sales dropped 30-40 per cent on Tuesday, though the price was steady at Rs 82/kg. Broiler ducks were sold at Rs 300 each.
This is the first time bird flu has been detected in Kerala, according to officials of the animal husbandry department. In Kuttanad, poultry farming, especially the rearing of ducks, is a major source of income for farmers.