For poultry farmer Dwarika Narayan Gadanayak, whose broiler chicken farm located right next to a busy road, once housed more than 3000 birds in Madhipur village of Puri’s Pipili block, the struggle for survival may have only just begun.
The 40-something farmer had started his poultry business by mortgaging his wife’s jewellery six years ago. But when the winds of Cyclone Fani tore through the poultry farm, shredding its asbestos roof on the morning of May 3, Gadnayak could do little to save the birds. “The winds were too much for the birds. They were battered against the roof and wall and just fell to the ground from the shock. I am completely ruined,” said Gadanayak, who, along with other poultry farmers, last week buried the bird carcasses next to his farmland.
As Odisha cleans up the damage wrought by Cyclone Fani, the scale of the devastation is now coming into focus and victims like poultry farmers who usually attract less attention in disasters like this, are in the spotlight this time. Officials in the state fisheries and animal resources development department said at least 4.2 million birds, mostly broiler chickens, were killed, while more than 6000 livestock were killed by Cyclone Fani. More than 2 million chickens perished in Puri district alone, the ground zero of the cyclone, they added.
“Cyclone Fani may have caused the biggest-ever death of poultry in any disaster in Odisha. We are still evaluating the extent of the loss. The poultry industry has suffered loss of more than Rs 200 crore with the broiler (chicken meat) industry accounting for a loss of over Rs 170 crore,” said Vishal Gagan, secretary of fisheries and animal resources development department. The 1999 super cyclone had killed about 1.9 million birds, while about 1.72 lakh died in the 2013 Cyclone Phailin.
Officials said that the final death toll of the poultry won’t be known for several days, as the state government was more focused on assessing the damages to residential houses, a priority in view of the impending monsoons.
Other poultry farmers in the region are worried that the cyclone may have dealt a deadlier blow than expected, as many of them had borrowed from banks to take up poultry farming. Nutan Behera’s poultry unit in Dhanipur was also destroyed, with all 3000 birds owned by him dying instantly. “They were killed when entire walls and roofs of sheds came crashing down on them. I also lost 80 sacks of poultry feed as they were rendered soggy. I have been pushed back by 15 years,” said Behera.
The state government last week announced a maximum compensation of Rs 5000 per each poultry firm, but farmers say it’s ‘scanty’.
“Almost all of Puri’s poultry farms have been destroyed. Encouraged by the agriculture policy of the state, many unemployed youth in Puri district had taken up poultry farming. How can Rs 5000 cover their losses? What is worse is that none of the poultry farms were insured,” said Puri district Poultry Farmers’ Association president, Ashok Kumar Pradhan.
Officials said the problem of compensating farmers who lose their livestock to natural disasters was a major headache, as the amount of Rs 5000 was set by the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) guidelines long ago. “We are trying to impress upon the Centre to revise the amount and even took up the matter during the meeting with the inter-ministerial team’s visit to Odisha,” said Vishal Gagan.
Poultry farmer Gadnayak has other worries too, since even the paddy and vegetables he grew on a field near his farm were wrecked in the cyclone. “Unless I get a helping hand, I don’t know how I can sustain myself,” Gadnayak says.
May 17, 2019 22:56 IST