The novel coronavirus pandemic brought the entire global economy to a standstill, and the rural small entrepreneurs in developing countries like Bangladesh, mostly concentrated in agriculture sector, are not immune to the effects.
Bangladesh has declared a 10-day general holiday from March 26 while people started maintaining social distance and staying home like other countries across the world in an effort to starve the virus of the hosts it needs to replicate itself.In this dire situation, over 200,000 chicken are dying every day at hatching farms in Jessore district, as poultry farm owners stopped buying chickens from hatcheries thanks to the lockdown.
The owners of poultry hatcheries said they have been counting huge losses as panicked poultry farm owners stopped buying chicken abruptly, as soon as the lockdown was imposed.
According to the Jessore office of Department of Livestock Services (DLS), five hatcheries in the district have been producing four lakh chickens and it costs Tk 32 for hatching a chicken from egg.
However, the pandemic has thrown these hatchery owners, labourers as well as the district poultry industry to a hopeless vacuum as the farm owners stopped purchasing chickens from them.
Meanwhile, the owners informed that they cannot stop producing chickens at these automated hatching farms instantly and it takes a minimum of 21 days to halt the hatching machine.
Tofail Ahmed, technical manager of Afil Agro Ltd, said they produce over one lakh chickens every day but could not stop the automated machine from producing chicken.It takes four months to prepare a layer chicken which gives eggs for one year constantly, and in each cycle they put eggs in the incubator for 21 days, he said.
“We must wait for the 21 days to be over, if in any case it’s necessary to stop production at the hatchery,” he said adding once it is stopped, restarting the process requires a significant investment.
Dr Aminul Islam Molla, an officer at Khulna Division of DLS, said the pandemic - when it occurs in multiple locations in cycles - will affect the poultry industry of the country.
Meanwhile, some people are disseminating misinformation on social media over poultry meat and eggs, he said, adding that they are not harmful and urging the general public to let sense prevail over rumours.
Abdul Mukit, deputy manager of Tamim Marketing & Distribution Ltd, said over 1,000 poultry farms produce about 11 lakh kilograms poultry meat every day.
The price of poultry meat has fallen to Tk 40 to Tk 45 per kilogram whereas once it cost Tk 110 for producing a kilogram of poultry meat, he added.
Khandaker Idris Hasan, manager of the company, said it costs Tk 32 for producing a chicken from egg.
“Over two lakh newly hatched chickens are dying every day as it is not being transferred to poultry farm in time,” he said, adding that they are calling buyers over phone to collect their chicken from hatchery.
Coronavirus, first reported in China, has infected more than 532,009 people globally until Thursday and killed 24,083 of them.
Bangladesh has so far reported 48 cases and confirmed five deaths from COVID-19.
The government has shut down educational institutions and transports while advising the people to maintain social distancing and urging not to go out of home to tackle the further spread of the virus.