Migratory duck farming in India
Paddy cultivation and duck farming have always been closely interlinked in the Trivandrum district of Kerala, the southernmost state of India. The ducks are released on paddy fields after harvest, feed on leftover rice grains and in the process enhance soil fertility through their droppings.
LEISA Magazine • 21.3• September 2005
Migratory duck farming in India
Paddy cultivation and duck farming have always been closely interlinked in the Trivandrum district of Kerala, the southernmost state of India. The ducks are released on paddy fields after harvest, feed on leftover rice grains and in the process enhance soil fertility through their droppings. However, during the last two decades paddy cultivation in the area has substantially decreased because of increased urbanization, changing cropping patterns (whereby rice is gradually replaced by higher value crops such as vegetables and bananas), and migration of young people away from rural areas. This development has forced farmers to purchase feed for the ducks all year round, making duck farming expensive and unsustainable. But “necessity is the mother of invention” and farmers have developed an alternative that enables them to keep duck farming profitable.
Let the march begin!Many farmers in Punchakkari area of Trivandrum keep duck flocks of 5 000 - 10 000 birds. The ducks, mostly local breeds like chara and chempalli, are kept for egg production, and are sold or slaughtered at four years of age. Demand for the nutritious duck meat is high and the price is good: It fetches up to 70 Indian rupees (US$1.61) per kilogram, compared to 50 Indian rupees (US$1.15) for chicken meat. During part of the year, the ducks used to feed on rice grains on the farmer’s paddy fields and other fields nearby, but confronted with the decreasing areas under paddy cultivation the farmers introduced a system of “migratory duck farming”, which provides benefits to the duck owner, farm labourers and paddy field owners in the district and beyond.
BenefitsMigratory duck farming caught full momentum during the 1990s, and is still popular because of the benefits it offers to all parties involved. The duck owners now have two options for selling ducks: They can sell duck meat in their district as before, or they can sell 4-year-old live animals at 60 Indian rupees for a 2 kg duck to large Tamilnadu duck farmers. Farmers generally prefer the latter option because it leaves them with fewer ducks at the end of the trip, which saves transport costs back home. It also saves the labour involved in slaughtering ducks, and enables them to sell large numbers of ducks simultaneously. Part of the sales earnings in Tamilnadu can be reinvested by buying ducklings from the Tamilnadu duck farmers. Additional income is obtained from the sale of duck eggs during the journey. Farm labourers also benefit from the system. They usually work in the paddy fields from May to February, but may find it difficult to find employment during the lean period. By getting involved in migratory duck farming they earn 100 Indian rupees per day during the off-season. The landowners of the paddy fields visited during the journey obtain benefits as well. They receive duck eggs as remuneration for making their land available. They also welcome duck manure that fertilizes fields and gardens. And as for the marching ducks: they enjoy a feast all the way!
G.S.Unnikrishnan Nair. Agricultural officer& farm journalist.
Anjana, T.C-25/3175-1, Vanchiyoor, Trivandum, Kerala, pin-695035, India.