THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Aussie bird emu, a recent favourite with poultry farmers in Kerala, is hogging some serious government ‘interest.’ Sensing an emu boom waiting to happen, government agencies have begun exploring the possibilities in farming the large flightless bird.
�State Government undertaking Meat Products of India (MPI) is establishing a 100-bird farm at Koothattukulam, primarily for meat. The State Animal Husbandry Department also plans to launch schemes this year to popularise emu farming.
�MPI expects to get the initial stock from the Central Poultry Development Organisation (CPDO), Hessargatta, Karnataka, and from private emu farmers in the state, MPI managing director Ani S Das said. MPI has found trials in freezing and cooking its meat successful, he said.
�‘’Emu farming is a few years old in the state but still, only private farms are in the business. There is demand for emu oil which is believed to have therapeutic value and its egg, but there is no market for the meat. Emu farming will really catch on only if the meat can be sold,’’ Ani S Das said.
�The meat has low fat content and despite its intimidating size, the Australian bird is not that difficult to care for, according to MPI. It can be fed poultry feed, kitchen waste or grains such as maize. Besides, it is reasonably disease resistant and can be bred in fenced-off open spaces.
�To have a closer look at emus, Animal Husbandry Minister K P Mohanan had visited Hessargatta. ‘’We are helping private emu farmers at present. The farm at Koothattukulam will also show us how compatible the birds are to our climate,’’ Mohanan said.
�Last year, the Animal Husbandry Department had purchased two emus from the Pondicherry University and kept them at its dairy farm at Kudappanakkunnu here on trial basis. This year, the department plans to increase the numbers and train farmers with the help of the Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University, department director R Vijayakumar said. ‘’There is huge potential in emus. Though we don’t have a special scheme for emus at present, we are planning popularisation programmes this year,’’ Vijayakumar said.
�State-run Kerala State Poultry Development Corporation (KEPCO) also has ‘emu plans,’ but will take the ‘plunge’ only after carefully studying the market, KEPCO managing director V Sunil Kumar said.