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Export potential of exotic birds

Karachi offers one of the best climate for bird breeding

By Syed M. Aslam
Sep 11 - 17, 2000

According to a conservative estimate Pakistan is exporting Rs 70-100 million worth of exotic birds annually. It is even more interesting to note that most of these birds are imported into the country and are being bred in captivity locally not only to meet the export orders but also to meet the demand within the country which is growing with each passing year.

Karachi has become the biggest birds breeding and exports centre of the country followed by Lahore. Middle East, particularly Dubai, has become the major market of exotic birds for the local exporters while a sizeable quantities are also going to Holland the exotic birds trading centre of the world, Turkey, Thailand, Russia, and Iran.

The main commercial items which are being exported at present are budgerigars, Java sparrows, finch, cockatiels, ringneck parrots, alexandrines (mountain parrots), lovebirds, doves, ducks and fighting cocks. Though Cockatoos, Amazon parrots and Macaws the king of parrot kingdom are also being bred locally but they are yet not being exported due primarily to two reasons. Number one, they take much longer than the above commercial varieties to mature and thus to breed and secondly, their production at present is just enough to meet the local demand.

Unlike budgerigars, lovebirds, cockatiels, finch, Java sparrows and doves which mature in a short period of a maximum of 4 months and alexandrines which mature in 1 to 1/2-2 years the cockatoos, Amazons and Macaws takes a much longer period to mature. Macaw, the life cycle of many varieties of which is 80 years exceeding that of human beings, takes anywhere from 5-8 years to mature. Similarly Amazons and cockatoos, the average life of which is between 40-50 years, matures in 3-4 years.

Thus the economics of bird farming is resulting in the breeding of commercial varieties mentioned above and that also explains the exports dominated by these varieties. Budgerigars, whom bird specialists call the ABC of bird farming, tops the birds exports, followed by lovebirds, Java sparrows, finch, cockatiels, doves, and others. The demand within the country is also increasing with each passing year and the daily activity at the Empress Market birds market as well as weekly Sunday Bazaar at Liaquatabad are enough to vouch the validity of that statement.

The growing demand, within as well outside the country, have turned many bird lovers in small scale bird breeders. The activity not only need small investment within one's own premises but also ensures a substantial returns within months. An initial investment of Rs 25,000 can help one to earn a monthly income of Rs 2,500 within six months and much more after a year as Java, finch, budgerigars, doves and lovebirds breed very quickly. For instance, finch matures in 2 months, doves in 21/2 months, lovebirds 3-4 months, Java three months, cockatiels 3-4 months.

Not only the commercial items attain maturity in a short span of few months but they are also in great demand locally for the benefit of small scale investors as they are much more affordable than cockatoos, Amazons and Macaws. The popularity and demand of the commercial items can well be attributed to their affordable prices, not only in Pakistan but throughout the world. This makes it all the more attractive for the bird breeders, majority of which are small scale with few exceptions of big ones.

Though bird prices in the country at any given time is primarily influenced by the supply and demand a pair of budgerigars sells for an average of Rs 80-100; Java sparrows for Rs 300; lovebirds Rs 250-300; cockatiels Rs 400-500; finch and dove Rs 100-150, and Alexandrines Rs 1,500. The small initial investment, small time needed to start earning an income and the increasing demand for birds have turned many bird lovers into enterprising bird breeders. Today there are many birds shop catering to the increasing demand in various localities of Karachi.

Today all of the above birds are being bred in the country for commercial purposes. Only a handful of them are of local origin including Alexandrines, ringnecks, doves. The origin of lovebird is Australia and Africa, Java sparrows as the name suggest is Indonesia, budgerigars and cockatiels is Australia, finch and dove is India, Amazons and Macaws is South America, and cockatoos is Australia and India. However, most of them particularly budgerigars, Java, finch and lovebirds are now being bred all over the world and have become the species of the world not singular to any one region.

Karachi offers one of the best climate for bird breeding but it has only been in recent years that serious attempts are being made to exploit the real potential. Breeding of birds has been made possible by importing the birds into the country which is subjected to 15 per cent import duty, 9 per cent tax charged by the Civil Aviation Authority as all imports, and for that matter exports, are done by air. The total impact of import duty and costs adds up to 35-40 per cent.

Sources who asked not to be named said that import tariff on birds should be reduced so that more small scale investment can help create self-employment to thousands of people in the country.