The ripple effect caused by the bird flu threat has resulted in poultry products dipping to an unbelievable 60 percent down in the Indian capital. One can see that in Gazipur wholesale market chickens being sold for just Rs. 12 per kg.
Only those chickens that were certified by the veterinary doctors, deputed by the Delhi administration were sold for Rs.20-25, whereas those that were uncertified was available for a mere Rs.12 per kg.
"The sales have gone down drastically and we cannot return the chicken to farms therefore we are forced to sell them at cheaper prices," said Alam, who had parked two tempos carrying chickens at the fishery wing of Gazipur, the largest wholesale fish and poultry market in north India, to sell them illegally.
"This is our family business and I work with my uncle. He is managing the main shop in the chicken market trying to get a better deal," he said. "It is only because of the scare that the prices have crashed. Two days back the prices were Rs.36 but the market crashed Wednesday morning," Alam said.
The main problem is that while the supply has remained more or less intact, the demand has gone down drastically. Around 150 trucks of birds - each carrying approximately 1,000-1,200 birds arrived Wednesday, leading to a glut in the market.
Authorities Tuesday culled 223,000 chickens in the country's western region to pre-empt any spread of avian flu and said the focus would now be on cleanup operations and the rehabilitation of poultry farmers.
The culling operations were conducted in a three-kilometre radius of Maharashtra's Navapur village, 300 km from state capital Mumbai, where India's first case of avian flu was confirmed Saturday.
At Gazipur, Mehrazuddin Qureshi, sitting on atop baskets containing chicken, said: "People have stopped buying chicken. The buyers have just not come.
"All these chicken boxes should have been sold out in three hours but I do not expect to get anymore buyers. We have sold only 20 percent of what we normally sell," he said.
Qureshi was not the only one eagerly awaiting buyers. There were others who had a leisurely Wednesday as not much sales took place.
Nadeem Ali of Chand poultry shop said: "Normally we do not have time to speak to anyone because of the rush but today things are moving at an easy pace. It seems we will have to keep these chicken in the market and feed them because there is no point sending them back to the farms," he added.
Meanwhile, farm owners like Satpal of Sonipat, Haryana, faced a tough time convincing the wholesale dealers to buy chickens from him.
"I have brought around 1,500 chickens but till now only 400-450 have been sold," he said. He said though veterinary doctors had certified his poultry products sales had not picked up.
For Narendra Singh, a restaurant owner from Rajouri Garden, west Delhi, the bird flu has scare has led to a downslide in business as he is facing difficulty in selling his chicken and tandoori dishes to customers.
"Not many people are eating chicken these days therefore sales have gone down tremendously. On a normal day, I buy around 100 chicken from this place but this time I am only taking 40," he said.
Imran, who runs a shop in Shahadra, northeast Delhi, echoed Singh. "I am only taking 26 birds because I had taken orders from some of the people in advance. We have stopped selling chicken in our shop for the past few days, there is no point taking the stock when people do not buy," he added.
Meanwhile, the four vets at the Gazipur market had a tough time in checking all the birds and certifying them safe.
"We have closed one of the two gates so that people do not buy them and take them away without our certificate," said Raj Kumar. "We have not come across any dead birds yet but we are keeping a strict vigil by taking rounds in all the 88 shops."
Another vet, Babu Lal, said: "We are issuing a medical certificate and gate pass to the buyers so that they can take the birds out of the market. Without our permission not a single bird is going out."
But the rock bottom prices have been a boon for the scores of menial workers at the Gazipur market. They usually only handle the fish and poultry products but were seen carrying home the live birds bought at throwaway prices.
Said Rashid, a worker who makes around Rs.50-60 per day by slogging at the market from midnight: "Today my family shall have a real party," pointing to the four birds he picked up for less than Rs.50.