The administration has earmarked an area with its centre at Lanka Tola, where avian flu broke out last week, for surveillance and culling but poultry owners all over the district have been hit by panic.
A week ago, chicken was available in the market for Rs 90-110 a kg. But now, the price has come down to Rs 35-40.
The district administration has denoted an area with 10km radius around Lanka Tola and culling was carried out only in an area of 1km radius. But owners of farms away from the epicentre of the disease have also been forced to sell off their stock at dirt-cheap prices because of an ensuing panic. “The infection among the birds has not spread out of the town but no one is buying our stock because of fear of bird flu,” said Chandrashekhar Mishra, the owner of a poultry farmer on the outskirts of the town.
He added that as the compensation provided by the government for culling the birds is very low, the poultry owners were selling off their stock to traders from other districts.
Most of the buyers are from Darbhanga, Madhubani, Muzaffarpur, Samastipur, East and West Champaran and Vaishali.
“In an effort to recover whatever little they can of their investments, poultry farmers are selling off their stock at whatever prices they are being offered,” said Mishra.
A source said many small and marginal farmers had invested in poultry, expecting a spurt in sales around Holi. The festival of colours is slated on March 27 this year.
“There is no association of poultry farmers in the district that can raise the issue of the low compensation with the government. So, they have no option but to suffer in silence,” Mishra said.
Purnea sadar sub-divisional officer Raj Kumar accepted that the compensation offered to the farmers for culling is far less than the price of the birds but said the Union government had fixed the amount. “We shall inform the central government about the problem and send it a report about the market prices of the chicken,” he said.
At least 7,000 birds have been culled so far since the outbreak of avian flu in the district. The district administration is sprinkling chemicals in affected areas to check the spread of the infection.
“All necessary steps are being taken to stop the transportation of birds to other towns,” Kumar said.
Even farmers in Katihar, Kishanganj, Araria and Madehpura — which border Purnea — are suffering from the dip in chicken sales.
A farmer in Katihar town, who did not wish to be named, said: “Not a single case of bird flu has been reported in the district, neither has an alert been issued. But we are selling off our birds before a flu attack and recovering as much as we can.”