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Waste Management: A Viable Solution to Agro-Industry's Woes

Waste Management: A Viable Solution to Agro-Industry
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Waste Management: A Viable Solution To Agro-Industry-'s Woes. The poultry industry is one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in India, with...

The poultry industry is one of the fastest growing agricultural sectors in India, with an annual growth rate of 8-10%. With a production of over 65,000 million eggs and 3.8 million tonne of poultry meat per year, India is the second largest egg and third largest broiler chicken producer in the world. While public health remains the major concern in discussions about the bird-flu influenza, the economic implications for the country’s poultry industry are dire as well.

In mid April this year, Telangana saw a major outbreak of bird flu, which led to the culling of over 1.6 lac poultry birds and destroyed over 2 lac eggs. The state which accounts for over 1/5th of India’s Rs. 90,000 crore poultry industry faced major economic losses due to the outbreak, facing of over 150 crore in just two days, with sales dropping by over 80%. Likewise last year’s outbreak in Kerala caused sales to fall by 50%. Fear of the virus also prompts other states to stop imports from affected areas, increasing the economic losses for all poultry farmers within the state limits, irrespective of whether their stock is infected or not. The same applies for international exports as well, the 2006 bird-flu epidemic caused losses of thousands of crores across the country.

One of the major reasons for the rampant spread of the disease is through bird droppings and corpses, which are not disposed off in a hygienic and sanitary manner. While most discussions about bird flu revolve around personal hygiene (washing hands regularly, covering mouth while sneezing, eating well cooked food etc), the key to preventing the virus may well be the maintenance of overall hygiene in the poultry farms, where the disease is most rampant.

An effective way to maintain hygiene in poultry farms is to feed the dung and other animal waste into a bio-methanation plant, which quickly decomposes organic waste and converts it into biogas. This method has already been used in places like Western Hatcheries in Maharashtra and Egg Industries Pvt. Ltd in Chhatisgarh. Furthermore, the organic fertilizer, which is a byproduct of the bio-methenation process can be rendered safe to use after it is disinfected properly, nullifying the virus altogether.

According to Col. Rege (Retd), of Mailhem Ikos, a solid waste management company, “Bio-methanation is particularly well suited to the poultry industry due to the extremely high percentage of organic waste and the risk of contracting diseases if the waste is not managed in a scientific and hygienic manner. We have successfully completed several projects for the poultry sector, minimizing risk of diseases and providing value back to the client in terms of bio-gas and electricity, which is a by product of the bio-methanation process.”

While the bird flu influenza affects poultry, some strains of the virus like the H5N1, H5N2 and the recently detected H7N9 can be transmitted to humans through close contact with birds, consumption of meat and being in close proximity of someone who has contracted the virus. The bird flu influenza was first detected in Jalgaon in 2006, and has spread to all corners of the country since. Some of the majorly affected areas include Maharashtra, Kerala, Telangana, UP, Andhra Pradesh and Manipur.
While we have discussed the economic implications of disease on the poultry industry in detail, this can be easily applied to the entire animal husbandry industry. Diseases like e-coli and salmonella are a constant threat to cattle and birds alike and can cause major losses. The economic implications can go across industries as well, for example the 2009 swine flu pandemic that has caused deaths of over 2,100 people in India alone, has also affected the tourism industry, with Maharashtra and Rajasthan being the most affected with losses of over 5,500 crore in the tourism sector alone. Most of these diseases can be curbed at least to a certain extent by the adoption of scientific waste management systems and high standards of hygiene, which should become a priority if we want to protect the burgeoning agro-industry.

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