Rumours of Avian Links to Coronavirus Hit Poultry Sales in India

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(Bloomberg) — Rumors in India that birds could spread the coronavirus are taking their toll on sales of poultry in the world’s second-most populous nation.

The speculation is circulating on social media, according to B.S. Yadav, managing director of Godrej Agrovet Ltd., India’s biggest compound animal feed company. Industry-wide weekly sales have plummeted at least 47% to 35 million to 40 million birds in the past three to four weeks, while prices have slumped almost 60%, he said.

“The damage is so severe that whatever we have done in the past seven months will be wiped out if the decline in sales continues for next one to two months,” Yadav said. “Rumours will take a long time to die.”

India’s 1 trillion rupee ($14 billion) poultry industry provides direct and indirect employment to 5 million people and supports more than 25 million farmers. With an annual production of 67,000 million eggs, India ranks second in the world.

“Surplus is building,” Yadav said, adding that the birds will be sold at lower prices. “Integrated companies and farmers are losing money because of rumours about the coronavirus, which has nothing to do with chickens.”

Farmers are cutting back on production and culling parent birds. If consumption normalizes, there may be a shortage in the next couple of months and prices could rise sharply, Yadav said.

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