Poultry industry operators are aiming to double their investment by 2020 from the existing Tk 25,000 crore to raise protein consumption in the country and explore global opportunities.
The boost in investment will take the sector's total employment, both direct and indirect, to one crore from the present 70 lakh, entrepreneurs said.
“We have huge scope to grow. What we need is support from the government. Opportunities to get low-cost loans will allow us to attain the goal,” said Moshiur Rahman, president of World's Poultry Sciences Association's Bangladesh Branch (WPSA-BB).
Rahman shared the vision at a roundtable on the poultry industry's role in meeting nutrition requirement, and economic development, jointly organised by Bangla daily Prothom Alo and WPSA-BB at the newspaper's office.
The industry insiders expect that rising income and population growth would boost demand for protein, especially chicken and eggs in the coming years.
At present, per capita consumption of chicken and eggs remains lower in Bangladesh than the recommended level of the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
A Bangladeshi consumes 3.63kg of chicken a year against the recommended level of 18-20kg. The per capita consumption of eggs stand at 45-50 pieces a year against FAO's recommendation of 104, said WPSA-BB.
“There is huge scope for increasing consumption. But for that, consumer awareness of protein requirement is needed,” Rahman added. Fazle Rahim Khan, vice-president of WPSA-BB, said the poultry industry has developed capacities of international standards.
"There is a huge opportunity to export poultry and processed-poultry in the global market," he said.
Nazma Shaheen, a professor of Dhaka University's Institute of Nutrition & Food Science, said around 40 percent of the children below the age of five suffer from stunting due to malnutrition. Children will suffer from stunting unless they are provided with enough animal protein, she said.
“We want the sector to flourish. But, it must ensure production and supply of safe chicken and eggs. Otherwise, it will not have any value.”
Many small farms use feed made from toxic tannery wastes, Shaheen added.
Poultry industry operators said the bulk of the feed used in poultry are industrially processed; only 0.2 percent feed may contain tannery waste.
They said the whole poultry sector suffers from a lack of consumer confidence just for a handful of feed mills that use toxic tannery waste.
“We are working to ensure production of safe food and a healthy nation,” said WPSA-BB Vice-president Saidur Rahman.
He said the poultry sector can flourish if the government takes steps to ensure bank loan at 5 percent interest and treat the sector as an extension of agriculture.
Local poultry entrepreneurs have to borrow at 16 percent interest from banks, whereas their foreign counterparts invest here by borrowing at 3 percent interest. “The difference in banks interest rates on loans puts us in unequal competition with our foreign counterparts,” Rahman said.
MA Sattar Mandal, former vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University, said small farmers may use substandard feed because of its availability and low prices.
He said farmers have to spend 65 percent of the total production cost of a bird on feed. "So, it is necessary to take steps to reduce feed costs."
Helal Uddin, vice-president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said the prices of day-old chicks should be reasonable to reduce production costs for farmers. It costs Tk 36 to hatch a chick but it is sold at Tk 74, he said.
Golam Rahman, president of Consumers Association of Bangladesh, urged industries to establish contract-growing arrangement to ensure production of safe poultry.
"Egg is an excellent food, one that contains all vitamins except vitamin C," said Ajay Kumar Ray, director general of Department of Livestock Services.