I. Livestock Sector Development in Assam
Livestock is an integral part of the mixed-farming system that characterizes agriculture in Assam. Besides contributing to food and crop production, livestock and poultry are as important as savings. For many poor households, livestock is a daily source of earning and is insurance against adversity. Animal traction is still significant in the State because of the increasing miniaturization of landholdings and high fuel cost that limits the use of machinery. Tractor density per hectare of cultivated area is 1/6 the India average. Being a The state with limited benefits of green revolution technologies and climatic uncertainties, livestock has the potential to contribute to farm diversification and intensification. Livestock products are integral parts of local diet as more than 95 percent of the population is nonvegetarian. Livestock production in Assam is characterized by rural smallholder production using indigenous cattle, buffalo, pigs, goats, and chicken. There are pockets of nomadic systems of rearing, mostly in the fringes of the forests. In recent years, more specialized and commercially intensive production areas have emerged where farmers are using improved livestock and commercial poultry strains. Livestock in the State is largely fed on crop residues, food waste, while high-producing animals are supplemented with concentrated grain-based feed. Unlike in other parts of India where cooperative farming (such as in Amul Dairy), has revolutionized livestock sector, investment in cooperative farming in the State has remained largely unsuccessful. Livestock production in the State includes milk, meat (mostly chicken, pork, and chevron), and eggs. The average productivity is limited. For example, the productivity of crossbred cattle in the State is 3.68 liters of milk per animal per day, compared to India’s average of 6.84 liters per animal, per day. According to an integrated sample survey in 2007-08, the cattle population constitutes the largest group of livestock at 8.25 million (7.8 million indigenous and 0.43 million crossbreeds) Followed by goats at 2.77 million, pigs at 1.5 million and Buffalo at 0.575 million. In the poultry population, fowl is at 10 million, and duck is at 3.18 million. A government sample survey in conducted 1997 indicates that the livestock population is showing a negative growth-trend for indigenous cattle, buffalo, and fowl. The production of milk, eggs, and meat is 824 million liters, 499 million and 29.89 thousand Tons, respectively in the year 2007-08. The per capita availability of milk, egg, and meat is very negligible and estimated at 69gm (77ml) per day, 17 units per annum, and 930 gram Per annum, respectively. This per capita availability compares very poorly with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) recommendation of 208 grams of milk per head, per day; 180 eggs per head, per annum; 10.8 kgs of meat per head, per annum. The milk production of indigenous cattle, buffalo, and goat is estimated at 1.057 liters, 2.288 Liters and 0.134 liters per day, respectively. A short study sponsored by UNCTAD-India in the year 2007, covering the 100-kilometer radius in Guwahati, the capital city of Assam, indicated an overall approximate cost of production of milk at Rs.12.95 per liter. This compares poorly with the cost of production of milk in other parts of India which can be presumed at Rs.9.20 per liter. The annual egg production of indigenous fowl has been estimated at 101 eggs per “layer,” and at 183 eggs for the “improved layer.” The annual yield rate of local duck and “improved duck” is estimated at 107 eggs and 183 eggs, respectively. The State has been successful in promoting “improved layer” and duck-rearing in rural backyards. However, there is a limited attempt for aggregation and organized niche-marketing of eggs, produced by indigenous breeds of poultry. The growth of commercial poultry sector (mostly for broiler chicken production) at Assam can largely be attributed to the private sector entrepreneurial initiatives and service delivery by input supplying Companies. Total commercial broiler chicken input market in the State is estimated at Rs.264.6 million per month (FARMER, 2009), a major portion of which Is imported from outside the State. There are about 36 private hatcheries in Assam that collectively produce around 3 million day-old chicks in a month. Approximately 14 percent of the total commercial broiler chicken market of Assam is under The control of commercial integrators or contract growing companies. This share is increasing in the post-bird flu (2008) scenario of the State with the occasional incidence of conflict arising out of inability on the part of the industry to ensure ethical practices ensuring fair Completion for all. There are about 18 brands of feed in the market, of which only four brands are produced by local manufacturers, while approximately 15 to 20 leading medicine and feed supplement companies operate in Assam. 2/9 Import dependency of the livestock input market (e.g., feeds, medicines, supplements), make local production Vulnerable to changes outside the State. A majority of poor farmers is price-sensitive, and when coupled with their limited knowledge regarding selection and use of inputs, it is possible for unscrupulous traders to market inferior quality inputs. Pig meat (pork) contributes 29 percent of the total meat production. This is followed by goat meat and poultry meat which is 23 Percent and 21 percent of total meat production, respectively. The average price of pork, mutton, and chicken during the year 2007-08 was recorded at Rs.120, Rs.175 and Rs.80 per kilo of meat, respectively. According to a 2006 study by International Livestock Research Institute, average per capita consumption of liquid milk—a major livestock product in Assam—from survey data in nine (9) Districts of Assam is about 44 liters (which is 120 ml. per day, per person) and 37 liters (which is 101 ml per day, per person) per year in urban and rural areas, respectively. The same study also reported that on the average, surveyed urban households spent 152 Rupees per week on home consumption of milk and dairy products compared to 73 rupees by rural households. With growth, primarily urban areas of the State are witnessing large imports of UHT packaged milk and milk powder aside from other dairy products. A subsector appraisal (ILRI) in the capital district of Kamrup, Assam in 2006 indicated an average 33 percent price increase in unprocessed livestock products. As per a NEDFi ( a GOI organization ) sponsored study conducted by Tezpur University in Assam in the year 2000, urban demand for eggs is 9,545,926 per week or 496 million eggs Per annum (per capita of 124 eggs per annum). Considering per capita availability of 17 eggs per annum as mentioned above, it is evident that most of this demand is met with inter-state import. More than 90 percent of the population in Assam is non-vegetarian. Northeastern Council estimates that the Northeast region of India is deficient by nearly 50 percent in milk and 87 Percent in eggs. It also projects that the requirements of these items will rise to 2.5 percent annually by 2020 (NE Vision-2020, GOI). Performance in the sector is mixed up to now. Production trends are upward in the case of milk and meat, but volume increase is nominal. When compared to population growth (considering the “11th Plan 2007-2012”, the annual growth rate of 1.28 percent) the production growth indicates that per capita availability must have remained almost constant for milk. This has probably increased for meat, but it is falling in the case of eggs. The crossbred cattle population in the State is only 4.3 percent of the total cattle population (2007-08). The low percentage of the cross-bred population may be due to limited coverage, poor breeder involvement, poor marketing and conception rate, and other factors. The sharp decline in the indigenous population does not match the growth of cross-bred population. These may be due to decreasing grassland, natural calamities like a flood or increasing farm 3/9 Mechanization. Informal reports indicating an increase in cattle slaughter for beef purposes and smuggling of cattle to border-countries can also be cited as reasons for the sharp decline in indigenous populations.