Drama of a different kind was played out at the Academy of Fine Arts on Monday evening, with poultry players as protagonists and panic as the theme.
With the bird flu fear sending chicken sales sliding and losses spiralling, around 500 members of hatcheries, feed producers, distributors and veterinary surgeons met at the city's traditional seat of theatre in a desperate measure to turn the tide.
Armed with reports that there had been no case of avian flu in Bengal, they chalked out a blueprint for intervention. Busting the 'myths making the rounds of retail markets about bird flu' and convincing buyers that there was no danger in 'consuming cooked chicken' formed the basis of the battle plan.
To begin with, more than a lakh leaflets will be printed for distribution among buyers across all major city markets.
The leaflet ' to be printed both in Bengali and English ' will spell out why chicken is safe for consumption in Bengal and add: 'As per WHO guidelines, 1,185 samples were screened for bird flu at Bhopal and ALL ARE NEGATIVE'
P.K. Roy, managing director of Arambagh Hatcheries, said: 'We will have representatives at the retail outlets to interact with the buyers in the presence of veterinary surgeons so that fears are allayed. Unless consumer confidence is won, it would be difficult for the industry to fight back.'
This apart, a major promotional campaign from West Bengal Poultry Association will flood the city to assure buyers that there was nothing wrong in consuming 'properly-cooked chicken'. But the person cooking it must maintain 'high standards of hygiene' and the birds should not 'look sick'.
Chicken exporters, too, were busy drawing up an elaborate line of defence. On Monday, they put together a global report on Avian Influenza in Birds in some 25-plus countries to stress the fact that India does not figure on the list.
'Competitive pricing and the standards of hygiene maintained by the exporting firms here have worked in India's favour,' said T. Srinithi, general manager (East India and International Operations) of Venkateswara Hatcheries Private Limited.
Venkateswara and Arambagh are two major chicken exporters.