Ostrich farming on verge of collapse owing to govt’s negligence


–Wooed by PML-N govt, farmers suffer following expiration of first phase

–Ostrich farming director hopeful for extension in project; blames ‘lack of funds’ for delay

LAHORE: Once thriving Ostrich farming is on the verge of collapse in Punjab owing to the negligence of the government and Punjab Livestock Department as they did not extend the project after its expiration.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government, during its tenure, promoted ostrich farming to increase the consumption of low-fat and organic red meat in 2016 and declared ostriches a part of livestock so that it could be raised by farmers and citizens without a license. These farmers were trained to handle and breed ostriches for meat, skin and feather production, medication, vaccinations and for the production of meat and eggs. The government offered Rs10,000 per bird on an annual basis to those famers registered with the Livestock Department. The subsidy was available to farmers who reared between 25 and 100 birds.

The project, which was launched two years ago, expired on June 30 and since then, ostrich farmers are going from pillar to post while none of the authorities concerned are addressing their grievances.

According to Ostrich Farmers Association President Rana Khalid, the number of ostrich farmers in the country was around 70 in 2016 but due to the persuasion of former Livestock Secretary Naseem Sadiq, the number of farmers crossed 200 just in Punjab. About 160 farmers rearing 6,500 birds were registered in 2018 while 52 farmers bringing up 3,500 ostriches were registered in 2016 and 2017.

“I invested Rs7 million in an ostrich farm but no one is buying any birds from me now. The buyers ask for Rs800 per kg meat of a live animal which does not even bear basic expenditures. A 100 kg animal eats like a buffalo and it is not possible for me to feed them now.”

“Nasim Sadiq used to call farmers at his office and make promises of profit margins and government’s patronisation. He promised to bring slaughter machines from Iran but now everything has changed. The officials of the Livestock Department promised subsidy and installments for rearing birds but now they have stopped everything. They now say the project has been completed and offer us nothing. They do not even market ostrich meat which they had promised to do,” he added.

Ostrich farming Project Director Dr Talha said the project was initially started for two years which expired on June 30. “We have written letters to the Punjab government and hope the project will be extended for another year. Afterward, we will start installations and marketing of Ostrich meat. Right now, we do not have funds for this purpose.”