Poultry Technology Magzine in an interview with Mr. Ricky Thaper

A career spanning more than 35 years, Mr. Ricky Thaper has been associated with the Indian poultry sector, which has witnessed exponential growth in the last decades. The industry has transformed from predominantly a traditional backyard poultry into an organised commercial poultry. Currently commercial poultry accounts for 85% of total poultry production. In this exclusive interview with Poultry Technology, Mr. Ricky Thaper, Treasurer, Poultry Federation of India, explains the achievement of the poultry sector and identifies future challenges to sustain the growth of the sector.

Poultry Technology: Poultry growth in the last decade and reasons for the growth?

Ricky Thaper: The Indian poultry sector has played a crucial role in meeting protein and nutritional needs of a vast section of the population. While the production of agricultural crops has been rising at a rate of 1.5 to 2 percent per annum, that of eggs and broilers has been rising at a rate of 7 to 9 percent per annum. Over the past few decades, it has evolved into a mega-industry, positioning India as a major global producer of eggs and broiler meat. In just about four decades, India has transformed their poultry farming industry through major investments in breeding, hatching, rearing, and processing of chicken. India, as the second largest producer of eggs (138.30 billion in 2022-23) and the fifth largest producer of poultry meat (4.47 million tonnes) globally.  Egg production in the country is growing at the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 7.35% over the past 9 years. India’s total meat production has increased from 6.69 million tonnes (MTs) in 2014-15 (April-March) to 9.77 MT in 2022-23. According to FAOSTAT, the USA has 17% share in global poultry meat production followed by China (12%), Brazil (11.7%), Russia (3.8%) and India (3.5%). The annual poultry meat production is estimated at around 5 Million Tonnes and it is witnessing an annual growth of 6–7% as per trade estimates.. The Increase in the average income and the urban population has led to a tremendous increase in the poultry demand and a steady increase in consumption over the years.

 Poultry Technology: Is India up to par with current driving technology?

Ricky Thaper: Automated feeding systems, temperature control systems, and data-driven management tools optimize resource utilization and reduce production costs of the poultry industry. This efficiency helps producers maintain competitive pricing and a steady supply in the country. Improvement in the feed formulations, automated systems for feeding and temperature control and state-of-the-art disease management practices revolutionized poultry farming. These innovations enhanced production efficiency, leading to increased output.

Poultry Technology: The water factor (availability and quality) to produce meat and eggs?

Ricky Thaper: The poultry sector is a water intensive sector as from production to selling of meat, water is used for rearing birds and for cleaning of meat. It plays an important role in regulating body temperature, metabolism, digesting food, and eliminating body wastes. At normal temperatures, poultry consume at least twice as much water as feed. Nipple drinking system is helping improve water use efficiency in the poultry farms. Water is an essential nutrient for poultry and therefore, supply of quality water is fundamental for good flock performance. The farmer can prevent many diseases in flocks by controlling the quality of the water which would lead to decrease in costs of management of poultry farm. Water is required for reducing air temperature in poultry houses (including evaporative cooling pads as in environmentally controlled (EC) sheds and fogging systems) and also to facilitate sanitation. Thus water remains a critical component of the poultry industry and the farms have been working towards ensuring that quality water is available to birds besides ensuring water saving techniques such as rainwater harvesting as well as recycling of used water.

Poultry Technology: For ensuring efficient supply chain

Ricky Thaper: Poultry producers and processors are streamlining supply chain operations to minimize waste and ensure timely distribution. Advanced logistics and transportation management systems facilitate the efficient movement of poultry products from farms to consumers. The transportation of birds has to improve for reducing mortality. For the processing industry, refrigerated vans as well as availability of cold storage facilities at the retail would improve the quality of poultry products available in the country.

Poultry Technology: What is the consumer asking for in India

Ricky Thaper: Chicken meat and eggs are perceived as healthier alternatives to red meat, driving up demand. Poultry products are often more affordable than other protein sources, making them accessible to a broader segment of the population. In the post Covid19 pandemic phase also because of demand for the protein rich food like poultry meat and eggs have increased sharply. The growing awareness regarding health and wellness is further driving the demand for a protein-rich diet. The shift in demand for live bird to fresh chilled and frozen poultry product market has been slow. Limited presence of poultry processing in India has resulted less availability of frozen chicken and other processed forms of poultry products. Currently around 8% of the poultry meat produced in the country is processed which is likely to increase up to 20% in the next few years. Opportunity for expanding processing facilities for poultry meat would see a huge growth with consumers demanding ready to eat products delivered at home.

Poultry Technology: How much does the government influence and participate with producing sector?

Ricky Thaper: The Government of India has been supporting the growth of the poultry sector through several initiatives like dedicated funds for setting up units, disease surveillance and providing support for ensuring supply of animal feed for the sector. The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) has approved India’s self-declaration of freedom from Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in specific poultry compartments. Compartmentalization is a crucial tool that enhances animal health, reduces the risk of disease outbreaks within and outside the compartment, and facilitates the trade of poultry and poultry-related products. The Department of Animal Husbandry & Dairying, has submitted a self-declaration of freedom from High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza in 26 poultry compartments in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh to the WOAH.

To support the livestock sector, the government has initiated several measures.  The Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund (AHIDF) of

Rs.15000 crore is being implemented from June 2020, which has now been further extended for next three years. The key objectives of the scheme are to fulfil the objective of protein enriched quality food requirement of the growing population of the country and prevent malnutrition. The support is also provided for Meat processing and value addition infrastructure and establishment of animal feed plants including poultry feed. The National Livestock Mission has been revised and realigned with an outlay of Rs.2300 crore for the five years commencing from 2021-22.The mission aims at development of entrepreneurs in rural poultry.

Poultry Technology: What is needed for India to be at the forefront of the global poultry production?

Ricky Thaper: The increase in production of poultry meat is likely to be achieved by expanding the coverage of poultry farms, modernizing existing facilities and adoption of efficient production practices. The growth of the sector will depend on factors such as change in demand pattern, technology adoption, favourable government policies, feed availability amongst others. Application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) can help the poultry industry address environmental impact, animal welfare, and production efficiency and also automate animal identification and weighing, improving accuracy and efficiency. AI can optimize breeding processes by automating tasks like egg grading, identifying live embryos, controlling incubation.

Poultry Technology: The poultry industry’s cooperation with USA Poultry and Eggs Export Council (USAPEEC)

Ricky Thaper: The Poultry Federation of India and USAPEEC recently has signed an MOU to jointly address protein deficiency and promote consumption of eggs and chicken in India. Mr. Greg Tyler, President & CEO, USA Poultry & Egg Export Council and Poultry Federation of India Team signed this agreement in the presence of Mr. Clay M. Hamilton, Agricultural Minister Counsellor, Embassy of the United States of America and delegates from India and USA. Several US Soybean and Corn Grower farmers also witnessed this MOU signing ceremony which will be a mile stone in promotion of consumption of eggs and chicken in India.

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