Martin W
    Mumbai – Nine poultry farmers in India have killed themselves and more are facing a grim future after bird flu slashed demand for chicken meat, an industry group said on Wednesday.

    India has culled hundreds of thousands of birds to contain several outbreaks of the H5N1 avian flu virus in poultry since February, but the disease has continued to resurface, mostly in western Maharashtra state.

    The scare has decimated the country’s $7,8-billion (about R48-billion) poultry industry, which says losses in the past two months have reached $2,2-billion (about R13,5-billion).

    “Nine farmers across India have committed suicide after their businesses suffered huge losses,” OP Singh, member of the National Egg Coordination Committee (NECC), told Reuters.

    ‘Sales are down by half’
    The suicides have been reported during the past 15 days from West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, the latter state being the epicentre of bird flu outbreaks in the country.

    The committee said there were 123 000 poultry farmers in India and about 70 percent of them were in a “dire situation”.

    “Most small poultry owners start their business by selling off land and jewellery. And when they can’t recover their costs, they are left with no choice,” Singh said.

    Nine farmers commit suicide in flu-hit India