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Opinion

Core team to visit Kerala bird flu affected areas tomorrow, duck slaughter continues

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As the slaughter of ducks continues in the Alappuzha and Kottayam bird flu affected areas in Kerala for the second day in a row, the Union government has decided to send a team of experts to the state on Thursday, said the state department of breeding animals.

The state government has also announced relief for affected farmers: they will be given 100 rupees for each duck slaughtered. Officials have begun gathering details of the euthanized birds, a senior department official said. In three days at least 46,000 birds will be slaughtered in Alappuzha, 38,000 and 8,000 in Kottayam. There is a ban on the duck trade until further notice in the two districts, he said.

Surrounded by many bodies of water, in Alappuzha and surrounding areas duck farming is popular: duck eggs cost almost twice as much as chicken eggs, and duck meat is a delicacy in many areas of the state. In Kuttanad and other areas, people encourage duck farming because pecking birds are good for growing rice paddies, as they clear the farms of pests and their incursion gives a tillage effect to the muddy soil. Kuttanad is known as the Kerala rice bowl.

“I suffered great losses. I lost around 20,000 birds in the last week. I bought 10,000 ducklings just two weeks ago. I took bank loans and money from moneylenders to finance my agriculture. Compensation from the government is meager, ”said K Kuttappayi, a farmer from Alappuzha. In agriculture for the past four decades, he said the recurring epidemic posed a great challenge for poultry farmers.

On Tuesday, the government had declared bird flu a state disaster and rapid response teams were deployed to slaughter and monitor affected areas. And strict controls have been imposed to contain the H5N8 flu strain. The state animal husbandry minister K Raju called a meeting in Alappuzha on Wednesday and will be camping in the district for two days, his office said. As a side effect, chicken prices plummeted in the state and chicken dealers said there is a 40 percent drop in sales. Many neighboring states have also imposed restrictions on Kerala chickens.

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