Chicken prices in India have soared to a record high after a heat wave killed more than 17 million birds in May. Temperatures regularly above 40 degrees Celsius have led to mounting casualties among livestock as well as humans.May and June are typically India's hottest months but this year temperatures have been above normal in some regions partly due to the emergence of an El Nino weather pattern, which in 2009 brought the worst drought in four decades to the country.(Everyday Food Gets Costlier: The Price of Pulses Up by 64% from Last Year)The death of millions of birds will be a major blow both for the growing poultry sector in the world's second-most populous country and for local corn producers who were hoping that the rising feed consumption would soak up their grain supplies.India has been struggling to export corn after global prices hit five-year lows late last year on record U.S. and South American production. This has been further muddied by indications that the country's poultry producers may not consume as much of the grain as previously expected."In the last two-three weeks poultry feed demand has fallen nearly 30 percent," said K V Krishna Charan, general manager at feed producer Komaral Feeds and Foods Pvt Ltd.Prices of corn and soymeal have dropped by nearly 4 percent in May due to the weak demand driven by high bird mortality. Usually bird mortality rate remains around 2-3 percent during summer, but it rose to 10 percent last month amid the scorching heat, said Prasanna Pedgaonkar, deputy general manager at chicken processor Venky's.
(Is Chicken Breast Always Best? | Back to Basics)With more than 17 million broiler chickens that have died in May - the highest ever deaths per month - wholesale chicken prices in western India jumped to a record 95 rupees ($1.49) per kg, up 35 percent over a month.(Do You Know Your Chicken?)A ban imposed by the western state of Maharashtra on beef also contributed to the rise in chicken prices, offsetting a drop earlier in the year when a bird flu outbreak pushed down prices to below production costs. Chicken is set to become more costly as mercury levels continue to rise in June, industry sources said.(Ban on Beef in Maharashtra: 5 Years Jail, Rs.10,000 Fine for Sale & Possession)Broiler chickens cannot survive if the temperature stays above 45 Celsius for long, said Vasant Kumar, president of the Poultry Breeders Welfare Association of Maharashtra. Maximum temperature in the southern states Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, which account for a third of India's poultry output, rose above 47 degrees Celsius last week, 3 to 7 degrees above normal, killing more than 2,100 people.(Natural Healing: 10 Home Remedies to Treat Heat Stroke)India was expecting monsoons to bring some relief, but the arrival of the June-September rains over the southern coast of Kerala has been delayed. The rains are now expected to reach by June 4, instead of May 30, a weather department official said. "Temperatures need to go down. Further extension of the heat wave by a week can kill a few more million birds," said Pedgaonkar from Venky's.
© Thomson Reuters 2015
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