The source is migratory birds from the east. Farmers in the two states have reportedly begun culling chickens, while the state governments have restricted supply of chicken across their borders.
“Bird flu indications are found in the Mysore region of Karnataka, among small farms with 3,000-4,000 birds. In fact, farmers had found some dead migratory birds which they carried into their farms, which was the major cause of the outbreak. The flu later spread throughout the farm,” said K G Anand, general manager ay Venkateshwara Hatcheries, producer and retailer of the Venky's brand of chicken products.
From those small farms in Karnataka, the bird flu spread to Kerala. “Normally, farmers transport 1-1.5 million birds (cocks and hens) from Karnataka to Kerala. That is how it spread to Kerala,” said Sanjeeb Chintawar, business manager, National Egg Coordination Committee.
Normally, bird flu outbreaks are reported in February and March, due to widening differences in temperature between day and night. In this period, birds normally travel from cold regions in search of warm weather, with India a favourite destination.
“Farmers in Kerala and Karnataka have taken adequate care to contain the spread. The situation is under control now,” says Chintawar. The spread of Covid-19 had prompted farmers to sell broiler chicken at Rs 5 a kg in parts of Maharashtra. With Rs 30-35 a kg in North India, the average price is Rs 15 a kg — cost of production is said to be Rs 75-80 a kg.
“It will take at least a year for poultry farmers to recover from the current loss, if Covid -19 is contained and the situation becomes normal,” mourns Anand.