Mizanur Rahman sometimes takes a look at some photographs on his mobile phone. Those are a bit old, taken about a year ago.
After a while, he stops looking at them with a deep sigh. These pictures reminded him of his dream of making it big in turkey farming.
Watching inspiring stories of turkey farming on YouTube, Rahman bought 50 American variety of turkey chicks for Tk 60,000 in early 2019. Within six months, they weighed around five kilogrammes (kg).
The farmer in South Jhawgara village in Melandah upazila of Jamalpur made a good profit by selling them between Tk 500 and Tk 600 per kg.
Buoyed by the initial success, he expanded the sheds and bought 500 more chicks. Within one and a half years, the number of birds rose to 2,000.
Rahman’s story was not just of merely turkey farming — it was a story of love, affection, sacrifice, and hard work.
“My school-going daughter loved these birds very much. I also adored them. In fact, I saw my daughter’s future among these birds.”
He worked tirelessly at the farm for more than a year. He was confident that if he sold these turkeys, he would earn about Tk one crore.
But when his poultry matured for sale, the price dipped sharply. He sold the birds for a paltry Tk 150 and Tk 160 per kg.
“There was a time during the pandemic when no one wanted to take it for free,” Rahman said.
He spent Tk 1,000 to Tk 1,500 to feed a turkey until it weighed up to three to five kg in six months. The cost of meat production was Tk 350 to Tk 450 per kg.
“The day I sold the last flock of turkeys, my daughter cried a lot. I couldn’t hold myself either. Some sort of affection was created for them but I no longer had the ability to bear their expenses.
“But at this moment, these are just memories. When I look at these pictures, my heart aches. I can’t hold back my tears.
My dream was shattered in the middle of my journey,” Rahman said.
The loss was so profound that he lost the ability to try to make a turnaround again, said the 35-year-old. All in all, he suffered a loss of Tk 20 lakh.
Zakir Hossain Palash, a turkey farmer from Jashore, has had a similar story to share.
The proprietor of Bismillah Turkey invested Tk 1 crore and reared 1,000 chicks, building three sheds on one acre of land. He also rented a showroom in the district town to sell frozen meat.
The monthly cost of the farm averaged Tk 40,000 but he was compelled to sell the meat for Tk 250 per kg against a production cost of Tk 450 to Tk 500.
“In the beginning, people bought it out of curiosity. At one stage, the demand almost evaporated, and the market went down completely,” Palash said.
Moreover, the price of turkey was much higher than that of broiler chicken. It was beyond the reach of the common people, he said.
In Bangladesh, turkey farming started in 2002 when some varieties of the bird was brought in from India. It then became popular in 2016.
Two and a half years ago, there were 250,000 to 300,000 turkey farmers. About 2,500 farms sold their products online, said Shakil Mahmud Milon, president of the Turkey Bird Development Association, Bangladesh.
He started his turkey farm in 2003.
“The industry is now ruined. Most of the farmers have shut their farmhouses. Some have converted into native chicken, layer or broiler farms.”
At present, there are no more than 20 to 30 farmers who are only raising turkeys, according to Milon.
He blamed the obstacles from various syndicates, including a section of businesspeople involved in poultry and other chicken varieties, profiteering mentality among a section of farmers and middlemen, and the lack of a proper market chain for the ruin of the industry.
He conducted many seminars, workshops and other programmes across the country to revive the industry. His efforts did not give much yield, leading him to give up in despair.
Milon now has only 35 turkey birds out of 2,500 chickens on his farm, Sundarbans Agro, in Bagerhat.
A number of farmers from different parts of the country said they had shut their business due to the higher cost of production.
This correspondent went to visit a farm in Keraniganj recently. But no sign of the farm could be found as construction work was going on there.
Locals said the farm was shut a couple of months ago as it was not running well.
Debashis Das, director for extension of the Department of Livestock Services, said the farming began as part of an individual initiative.
In the beginning, many people became enthusiastic and bought the chicken at higher prices. Initially, they got a better price, he said.
A turnkey egg was sold for Tk 200 to Tk 250, a turkey chick for Tk 400 to Tk 500, and the meat was retailed at Tk 800 to Tk 1,000 per kg.
But when the demand dwindled, farmers could not continue anymore, Das said.
The taste for turkey has not developed in Bangladesh in the way people eat poultry or other varieties of chicken. As a result, there is no market for turkey birds right now.
“There is no commercial future for the industry at the moment. Some people are mainly doing the farming as a hobby.”
According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the turkey population in Bangladesh was estimated at 1.44 million.
The main impediments to the turkey industry are price falls, substandard feed at a higher price, and a lack of proper marketing facilities, the livestock department said in a study.