A chick and egg tale

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His efforts to make valley self sufficient in poultry are not new. Since 1978 when Nazir Ahmad Tramboo’s tryst with the egg started, he has had more downs than ups but that has not deterred him. Hamidullah Dar reports as Tramboo comes up with new venture – fresh Desi Eggs.

Today Tramboo poultry farm has over 30,000 hens which produce more than 25,000 eggs a day.

Today Tramboo poultry farm has over 30,000 hens which produce more than 25,000 eggs a day.

At 62, Nazir Ahmad Tramboo fondly feeds hens in his sprawling farm in picturesque Khanmoh, 15 km from Srinagar. The millionaire commerce graduate seems to enjoy it, though there is ample staff to feed the chicken.

Tramboo has decades of experience in poultry, but this time, it is the egg that is his priority and not the chick.

Spread over an area of 20 kanals, Tramboo Poultry farm commands a picturesque location at Khonmoh, about 15 kilometres from Srinagar.

Credited for establishing Kashmir’s first hatchery in 1978 with an investment of forty lakh Rupees, Tramboo would sell day old cobb chicks. The business was aimed at reclaiming the market from Punjab farmers.

“I invested a huge amount of Rs four million in it to ensure that it was successful in the face of overwhelming competition from poultry dealers from Punjab, who those days supplied about 99 percent of the of poultry products consumed in the valley,” said Tramboo.

Nazir Ahmad Tramboo

Tramboo began by selling one- day old Cobb breed chicken to the farmers.  “Later I started another farm at Parigam in Pulwama that was spread over 60 kanals (three hectares). We reared birds for their meat and succeeded in slicing a share for us in the local market,” says Tramboo. “However, poultry dealers from Punjab, in connivance with the local administration, troubled us a great deal. They reduced the rates, which affected us adversely. We approached government for help but got disappointment in return,” adds Tramboo.

During the trying times, when profits were ridiculously low and the government indifferent, Tramboo refused to give up. His efforts bore fruit as his poultry farm flourished. “Our quality poultry product created its own market,” Tramboo said.

In mid 80’s he started experimenting. He introduced eggs obtained from cross breed of local chicken, which otherwise would lay less than 40 eggs a year. “I introduced a cross breed of Desi (local) hens and reared them for eggs. It was a huge success as people preferred Desi eggs for their taste over insipid ones supplied from Punjab,” Tramboo said.

Today Tramboo poultry farm has over 30,000 hens which produce more than 25,000 eggs a day or about one crore eggs a year which is a minuscule quantity in view of annual demand of 36 crore eggs in the valley. However, Tramboo is eyeing 10 per cent market share. “We intend to raise our annual production to 3.5 crore eggs,” he says.

Because of Tramboo’s efforts hundreds took up poultry farming in the valley. “In Parigam village alone all employees of our farm took poultry as occupation and they are producing about 1.8 million birds annually. Now thousands of people are earning their livelihood through poultry business,” said Tramboo.

Now half the valley’s demand of poultry birds is met locally.  The sailing has not been smooth. “People who did not want to see Kashmir self-sufficient in this sector created hurdles,” he says.

Tramboo’s business suffered a lot when paramilitary troops deployed to quell the insurgency occupied his Parigam farm in 1996. “When troops occupied the premises there were 20,000 parent stock birds in the farm. We started incurring huge losses as thousands of our birds died for want of medicines and feeding. The strikes and curfews almost sank our business,” he said.

His pedigree, Tramboo’s is an old business family, shows up when he says, “Losses and profits are part of business. These should never affect the prospective planning of good businessmen.”

In a tight spot, in between he tried by getting an multi national company in Kashmir. In April 2007, Tramboo group tied up with Singapore based US$ 1.5 billion JAPFA Confeed India limited (JCIL) having over 435 crore turnover in India. The idea was to introduce contract farming by offering day-old chicken to farmers, plus feeds and veterinary care and finally buy back the produce and supply to the market at its own. The JV introduced new Lohman broilers, a variety that grows fast with an average six flocks a year.

By November 2007, however, the JV was on the road as the JCIL team managing the farms fled leaving behind a few thousand unattended chicks. They first fled and then conveyed the termination of the contract.

“When I contacted the JCIL executives they said some armed men from al-Qaeda had entered the premises and they can work in this situation”. Intrerestingly TG’S Khanmoh farm is surrounded by the army from three sides; even the main gate has an army bunker.

The one in Pulwama also has significant paramilitary presence. But the staff’s statement in Pune that al-Qaieda has started fighting over poultry was enough to terminate the agreement.

Insiders in the market do not rule out the possibility of poultry farmers in Punjab and Haryana playing the spoilsport because they would market their five crore birds in Kashmir a year. They once blocked feed movement to J&K in retaliation of state ban on layers and culled hens at the height of avian flu alert. At least once, the central government intervened to protect their interests.

But Tramboo is unmoved. He did not stop and now he is eyeing another first to his credit. Soon he will start exporting eggs outside the country. “We have received an order for 50,000 eggs per week from Dubai. It will be for the first time that eggs from Kashmir will be exported to another country,” says Tramboo.

He is disappointed with the government for “ignoring this vital sector,” which he says has a potential to generate one Lakh employments. And he has a reason too. “Maharashtra chief minister Sharad Pawar took the initiative of promoting local poultry when he saw that his state was importing more than 80 percent of poultry products. He banned the imports and supported the local poultry industry.

Today Maharashtra exports poultry products and provides employment to about 2.5 million (25 lakh),” says Tramboo. “If government bans import of poultry items and promotes local businesses, there is no reason why we cannot become another Maharashtra in poultry sector.”

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