Bird farming on the increase

Sep 15th, 2014 – By Mohiuddin Aazim – dawn –

NON-POULTRY bird farming, including ostrich farming, is growing with increased financing opportunities to business start-ups and free online trading facilities.

Ostrich breeding, that began some years ago, is fast emerging as a profitable business and about a dozen ostrich farms are now operating across Pakistan. One farm owner in Malir, Karachi, says he sells ostriches to traders who supply their meat to top local hotels besides exporting the bird to Afghanistan and the UAE.

An ostrich farm located on the Karachi-Hyderabad super highway is doing brisk business. People buy from there not only grown up birds but also baby birds for rearing and onward selling.

In Jhelum, a businessman sells ostrich chicks to aspiring commercial breeders as well as to individuals for ostrich rearing in their residential backyards, people in trade say.

Pakistan Agriculture and Meat Company, a Government of Punjab-owned non-profit R&D organisation offers technical and financial support to ostrich farmers. Some businessmen-cum-politicians, including a member of Sharif family have shown interest in this business.

“Two, three years ago we used to import ostrich eggs and baby birds (for commercial rearing) but now these are also available locally and we’re among the top suppliers,” boasts a company official
Company officials say they are trying to persuade foreign investors to invest in large-scale joint venture ostrich farms but so far no deal has been sealed.

The Sindh Board of Investment has also prepared feasibility studies to help entrepreneurs venture into ostrich farming.

Officials of the board say they are trying to lure investment in this area by encouraging public-private partnership. “We in the public sector can help entrepreneurs to identify and acquire land, and we expect the private sector to put seed money in setting up technical facilities,” an official told Dawn.

Lately, Pakistan Ostrich Association has also been formed and has a website to bring interested parties on one platform. Separately, Pakistan Ostrich Company, a private advisory service has developed a website to create awareness about ostrich farming and online sales of ostrich meat.

“Two, three years ago we used to import ostrich eggs and baby birds (for commercial rearing) but now these are also available locally and we’re among the top suppliers,” boasts a company official.

He says it is too difficult to estimate the size of ostrich farming which is currently too small and scattered. “But roughly speaking, hundreds of ostrich eggs and baby-birds are bought and sold every month.” No stats are available on ostrich meat trading but relevant people guesstimate that each month a few hundred kilogrammes are consumed locally.

In rural areas of Sindh and Punjab, people also remain engaged in duck, geese and turkey farming. So far no large-scale commercial farming of these birds has started. But some businessmen in Karachi and Lahore get enough supplies for local markets as well as for exports.

Customs authorities club exports of these birds with chicken. Latest stats show that exports of live chicken and these birds together earned about $700,000 in FY14, up from less than $600,000 in FY13.

Breeding of quails, parrots, pigeons, doves, finches and other fancy birds has been a hobby-cum-commercial activity since long.

But for the last few years it has become more organised. Groups of young entrepreneurs in Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and other cities have been making money by buying and selling quails, parakeets, finches and other fancy birds.

According to a newspaper report, one entrepreneur in Karachi alone is selling 8,000 quails every month to hotels and eateries and he says the demand is ten times higher. Jebran Almani, the owner of Almani Quail Farm, recently got an offer for Rs1 million investment in his business from Business Start-up Launch, a joint venture of two NGOs New-G and Injaz Pakistan. Almani’s business partner in DG Khan produces 12,000 birds per month.

People associated with quail farming say hundreds of thousands of birds are bought and sold in Karachi alone at established sale points like Empress market, at weekly bazaars and also through web portals. Some people have also started exporting quails and quail meat to Afghanistan and the UAE.

“In addition to nine listed members of Online Group of Parakeet Bird Breeders, many bird breeders use OLX. Com, Bolee.Com and similar websites for trading birds and bird eggs, and all of them are doing good business,” says a member of the Group. “Our members often share information about storage of bird eggs, incubation and candling etc. and sometime make joint efforts in marketing of fertile bird eggs and young and grown up birds.”

Unlike the members of this group who primarily deal with parrots, pigeons and doves, those who use OLX. Com or Bolee.Com breed and trade in all kinds of birds including desi chicken.

Bird breeders say the expansion in bird farming has also led to increased imports of baby parakeets and fancy birds. But it is difficult to determine the import bill as it forms part of the imports of all live birds including chicken which currently stands at $7m per year, custom officials say.

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