Coronavirus fears lead to steep fall in chicken prices

Rumour-mongering has led to thousands of foodies chickening out of eating poultry

Chicken is no longer on the menu for thousands of gastronomes in the city, as fears abound that those eating the meat will end up contracting the dreaded COVID-19.

The latest myth to be spun out of rumour mills on social media has taken a heavy toll on the fortunes of poultry farms as prices crashed by over 50% within a span of seven days. Reports of mass deaths of thousands of hens in poultry farms of adjoining Godavari districts a few weeks ago have also added grist to the rumours.

One kg of broiler chicken, which sold for ₹160 two weeks ago, is now selling for ₹90 (with skin) and ₹100 (without skin), according to latest rates fixed by the Visakha Broiler Poultry Association (VBPA).

Members of VBPA said that the rumours have led to a decline in chicken consumption by over 50% in the city.

“Earlier on Sundays, we would register sales of about 2-2.5 lakh birds/hens. But this Sunday, we could not even sell one lakh birds,” said VBPA president T. Adinarayana.

According to Mr. Adinarayana, there were neither any deaths of chicken in poultry farms nor any cases of COVID-19 in Visakhapatnam district. “The rumours circulating on WhatsApp and Facebook, warning people that consumption of chicken will result in coronavirus, has affected our sales a lot. Even sales of eggs have been hit,” Mr. Adinarayana said.

The rumours began surfacing on messaging apps and social media platforms within a few days of the outbreak of COVID-19 in China. The false campaign seems to have been carefully crafted, with old videos of mass culling of hens now being circulated again as ‘evidence’ that the COVID-19 virus is also affecting poultry markets.

The rumours seem to have been successful in creating the desired outcome, with thousands of people across the State now deciding to observe a ‘no non-veg week’.

Busting myths

The members of Visakha Broiler Poultry Association said that if birds are not vaccinated properly, there are chances of their death. But it does not mean, the bird is affected with COVID-19. The members hope that the situation would be normal soon.

District Health & Medical Officer (DMHO) S Tirupathi Rao also made it clear that there are no signs of COVID-19 in Visakhapatnam district. He also ruled out the rumours that consumption of chicken, eggs could cause COVID-19.

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