January 6, 2023
ISLAMABAD – As the price of chicken meat touched Rs650 per kilogramme on Tuesday, traders and poultry farmers warned that relative affordability of chicken may become a thing of the past, and soon it could become as pricey as beef in light of the feed crisis.
They added the price could cross Rs800 per kg, almost equivalent to the red meat, as the live broiler chicken was being sold up to Rs370/kg in Islamabad.
On the other hand, the Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA) and All-Pakistan Solvent Extractors’ Association (APSEA) have threatened to protest in the Punjab capital on Thursday (tomorrow) if the government did not respond to their SOS call and save the two industries from collapse.
PPA, APSEA warn of protest in Lahore tomorrow
There has been a sharp spike in the prices of poultry products since October 2022 after the customs authorities stopped the release of GMO soybean shipments arriving mainly from the US and Brazil.
Hitherto, nine shipments have been stranded at the port owing to legal issues.
The situation could not be defused despite the intervention of a top US diplomat.
The import of Genetically Modified organisms (GMO) and its products is not allowed in Pakistan, as Pakistan is a signatory of international ratification against GMO seeds.
Food Minister Tariq Bashir Cheema recently told a National Assembly panel that Pakistan only allowed the import of non-GMO soybean. He had claimed that the US envoy urged him for one-time clearance of soybean vessels stranded at the Karachi port.
It may be noted here that soybean meal is the key ingredient in poultry feed. Amid shortage in the country on account of ‘illegal shipments’, feed mills have not been able to meet the rising demand. As a result, there has been a steep rise in feed prices. A 50kg of chicken feed costs Rs7,000 now after an increase of Rs2,000 in just three months.
On the other hand, industry players have criticised the role of hatcheries and feed mills in the rising chicken prices.
Mian Tariq Javed, president of the Punjab Poultry Farmers Association, slammed the top leadership of the Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA) for allegedly minting money through illegal imports and trying to create a monopoly over the supply of soybean meal, and also lobbying to restrict other similar imports.
“The issue relates to the import of genetically modified soybean – it was not allowed under the law but it had been imported without any notice,” he said.
Meanwhile, the PPA officials declined to comment on the allegation that the senior members of the association had been involved in the illegal import of the GMO soybean.
Interestingly, two different inquiries held by the Competition Commission of Pakistan (CCP) have found collusion and price fixing in one-day-old broiler chicks as well as poultry feed mills by the PPA.
The PPA members had obtained a stay order from Islamabad High Court for 10 years over one inquiry and in May 2021, feed mills obtained stay orders from the Lahore High Court against the show-cause proceedings by the CCP.
The matter related to stranded soybean shipments has become complicated as importers and the officials of the Ministry of Food Security were at odds.
The issue related to GMO seeds, however, comes under the domain of the climate change ministry. Both ministries maintain that Pakistan is a signatory to the pact against GMO seeds like most of the European Union.
However, all Pakistan Solvent Extractors’ Association (APSEA) endorsed GMO seeds. It maintained that the US, Brazil, Argentina, and other exporters produced genetically modified soybean and meal.
“Even the EU was importing GMO soybean from the US for poultry and cattle feed; we have to find a way too,” said Nawab Shehzad Ali, patron in chief of APSEA.
Meanwhile, the PPA and APSEA claimed that they are paying $0.4 million daily as demurrage for the seized ships, while chicken meat price has shot up in a month only because of unavailability of soybean.
Appealing to the prime minister to immediately intervene and give audience to a representative delegation of the two associations, they threatened that they would be forced to protest at Thokar Niaz Beg on Thursday (Jan 5) if the government did not put a stop to the ‘economic disaster’.
— Amjad Mehmood from Lahore also contributed to the report