The 10th International Poultry Show, held recently in Dhaka, has presented a thorough picture of the huge potential the industry holds in Bangladesh. Today, poultry farms are found in every semi-urban area of the country, run mostly by educated but unemployed youths. The nearly Tk 300 billion industry has grown in the last three and a half decades, creating millions of jobs, thanks to the efforts of entrepreneurs and government support, including tax benefits.
Like readymade garment factories, poultry farms too have grown sizably. Prof MA Sattar Mondol, former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University, estimated in a recent research paper that about 150,000 poultry farms today produce 570 million tonnes of meat and 7.34 billion pieces of eggs annually. This is no mean achievement for Bangladesh. The country's total population will be 172.2 million by 2021. That is why, as experts say, the country will have to increase per capita consumption of eggs to 85 pieces a year from 51 pieces at present, and per capita meat consumption to 7.5 kilograms a year from 4.2 kilograms.
The poultry industry in Bangladesh is banking on higher investment and increased consumption of protein. Sector insiders say total investment in the sector should double to Tk 500 billion by 2020, which will take the sector's total employment, including direct and indirect, to 10 million from 7.0 million. There is a good prospect for growth as the country's per capita protein consumption is still much lower than acceptable limits. The annual per capita chicken consumption in Bangladesh is only 3.74 kilograms (kg), which is expected to reach 8.42 kg by 2020. The recommended annual intake per capita is 18-20 kg globally. However, it is expected that rising incomes and population growth would boost demand for protein, especially chicken and egg, in the coming years.
Moreover, the sector's 16 per cent growth a year will largely depend on a number of issues like access to low-cost loans, a supportive government policy, and proper marketing infrastructure. A stable market will allow farmers to get higher profits, and encourage them to expand business. It will also increase farmers' purchasing power and create local and regional market opportunities, which are still untapped.
The per capita protein consumption needs to be increased to ensure a healthy nation. As poultry is the main supplier of protein for most developing countries like Bangladesh, it needs to develop further. The government should provide more tax benefits and other financial support to the poultry industry.
The entrepreneurs need to be careful as well as responsible in making quality feed and producing safe poultry. Scientists should develop improved breeds by working on indigenous varieties of chicken. It is also essential for the authorities to withdraw advanced income tax and duty on essential raw materials of the poultry industry until 2021 so that the sector can expand and meet the growing demand for animal protein.
The government needs to pay attention on vaccination to prevent diseases of chickens and follow a strict registration process of farmers for the industry's development. There is an allegation that many farmers use some medicines, including antibiotics and hormones, for quick growth of chickens. But farmers should avoid those.
Poultry industry, given its vast scope, can even contribute to the national exchequer by earning foreign exchange through exports of Halal chicken meat in raw or finished form. If the Malaysian 'paratha' can reach ordinary food stores in Bangladesh, why can't the country's chicken reach millions of consumers in Singapore or Berlin or Riyadh as cost of production is much lower here?