The exorbitant but ‘systematic’ increase in the price of poultry feed in Pakistan from October 2006 to November 2007 suggests that a cartel of feed millers has been behind the rising costs. Farmers fear that f the upward trend continues, it will not only make the price of chickens and eggs beyond the reach of common buyers but will also force small farmers, who cannot withstand the growing cost of production, to leave the field. The concern, supported by data prepared by the Society for the Advancement of Poultry Sciences, was raised recently by several farmers while talking to local press reporters. Commenting on the situation, SAPS general secretary Dr. Shakaeb Ahmad said: “What is astonishing is that the chicken feed prices have shown an increase of 40 to 51 per cent from June 2006 to October 2007 whereas it should have been 18 percent, considering the progressive inflation rate in the country.” He said it was surprising that all feed companies enforced the increase of a price at the same time and date, irrespective of their quality. “It seems as if everyone has a perfect mutual understanding,” he said, adding that in the feed industry there were tycoons who had huge storage godowns which were filled in the crop season when prices were usually low and the produce was sold later at exorbitant rates. It is believed feed millers created an artificial shortage of feed ingredients while storing huge quantity of raw material to manipulate prices. There are around 2,500 poultry farms in and around Karachi, the majority of them run by small farmers. Sources in the Pakistan Poultry Association also confirmed the existence of a cartel behind the feed price increase but refused to give any official statement. They said the government had signed a lucrative deal with a Thai company which had been allotted land in the interior of Sindh for poultry production while no measures were being taken to address the grievances of small farmers.