Indian poultry to gain from food sector modernization

The Indian poultry industry, with its strong expansion rates, is reaping the rewards of a rapidly evolving food sector.

Food processing is forecasted to be one of the main industries in India within a decade and poultry is well-positioned to take advantage of this change. (iStock, Ravsky)
Food processing is forecasted to be one of the main industries in India within a decade and poultry is well-positioned to take advantage of this change. (iStock, Ravsky)

India’s broiler meat production reached 4.3 million tons in 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, while egg production stood at 82 billion eggs, up significantly from the few million eggs produced only two decades ago.

With growth rates of 8% in broiler production, and 4 to 6% in egg production, India’s poultry industry is performing far more successfully than the agriculture sector as a whole which has been expanding by approximately 3% per annum, and is already taking advantage of the broader changes occurring across the country’s food market.

Continual increases expected

This growth is expected to continue due to a number of factors. As in much of the world, India is experiencing increased urbanization and rising income levels. Reflecting this drift to the cities, 10 major Indian cities alone account for 62% of all poultry meat consumption.

However, the country is also witnessing a broader shift in eating habits, most notably from vegetarianism to non-vegetarianism, and this is particularly evident among the more informed, younger generations.

Demographic changes are also proving more beneficial for the broiler and egg industries given that poultry-derived proteins are more easily affordable than other animal proteins and are not associated with any religious taboos. While consumption levels are rising, annual per capita chicken meat in the country still only stands at 3.9 kg, while egg consumption stands at 64. Both figures are low compared to many other countries, and below national recommendations.

Broader developments

India’s entire agriculture value chain is undergoing significant change and food processing is expected to become one of the country’s main industries over the next 10 years, according to Harsimrat Kaur Badal, union cabinet minister of food processing in the India parliament. 

In 2016, the entire Indian market for food was worth US$193 billion. By 2022, this figure is expected to reach US$540 billion.

The whole farm to kitchen chain in India, as in many other countries, is changing significantly with increased production, better storage facilities, more processing and evolving consumer preferences. Currently, approximately only 10% of agricultural produce is processed, resulting in a lot of waste, and the government is trying to rectify this.

Within the broiler sector, production is increasingly integrated, helping to protect farmers when market prices are uncertain, while within the egg industry 85% of production now comes from commercial farms. Growing demand for food and increased professionalism in the poultry sector has seen India rise to become the world’s fifth largest broiler producer and its third largest producer of eggs.

Challenges to resolve

There are still significant challenges in India that need to be addressed for the industry to fully flourish. Transport remains an issue, as does waste management, adoption of renewable energy, disease outbreaks and disease diagnosis. The country’s cold chain system also needs considerable expansion and improvement, while animal welfare organizations and a proposed ban on caged egg production are also presenting challenges for the industry.



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