In 1996, an Andhra Pradesh businessman smuggled in emus through the customs, saying they were chickens from Australia. Emus look nothing like chickens but one bribe looks like another so everyone kept quiet. He multiplied these emus and started giving them to people who had poultry farms. Soon, this illegal bird spread throughout India and the animal husbandry department, who were informed again and again of the dangers of keeping this bird, jumped into its promotion enthusiastically. This Government, under Sharad Pawar (who else?) has permitted emu farming. NABARD gives loans for it.
It has spread like a disease from Andhra Pradesh to Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Goa, Uttarakhand and even Gujarat where so far three businessmen have started emu farms. It has taken 15 years and hundreds of bankruptcies to realise that emu farming is a fake – a Ponzi scheme started by clever crooks to defraud farmers. A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of so called returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors. Ponzi scheme organisers solicit new investors by promising to invest funds in opportunities claimed to generate high returns with little or no risk.
Let me explain to you the Great Emu Game through example:
A man called M. S. Guru started Susi Emu Farms in 2006 in Erode. He cheated 12,000 investors. It was done in two ways: The company sold emu chicks to a farmer. The farmer was told that that once the birds were reared and adult, the company would buy them back. Many farmers turned their agricultural lands into emu rearing sheds.
Susi also asked people to invest in their emu business, paying to own emus which would be reared by Susi on a contract basis, guaranteeing Rs.1,000 per month as a return to the farmer. Many victims were lured by what appeared to be the success of Susi Farms. Guru was conferred the Arch of Excellence (Business) Award (2008) and Gem of India Award-2011 by All India Achievers Conference.
This is what his victims have to say: “They said it was a very simple business. They promised to supply chicks and the fodder. The shed was built on my premises claiming it was free, though I had to pay a huge amount in the form of interest free security deposit,” recalls P. Subrahmani from Omallaur who invested Rs. 15 lakh with Susi Farms. He got 25 others to invest. “As per the agreement, they had to pay me Rs.7,000 per month on a unit of six birds as maintenance charge. I had ten units. They made one payment and then stopped. They kept the security deposit and had no explanation for not making the payment.” Those that invested in Susi directly had to give an initial investment of Rs. 2 lakh and were allocated 20 chicks. They were promised a total return of Rs. 6.5 lakh in five years.
Perunthurai, a town in Erode district is the hub of emu farming with 28 companies who have done the same thing as Susi. According to police estimates, there are over 250 promoters of contract farming of this bird across the state and they all attracted investors promising higher returns. Dozens of emu farms started operations with advertisement campaigns to lure farmers to rear the bird on contract mode in Coimbatore, Krishnagiri, Pollachi, Mettupalayam, Tirupur, Perundurai, Dharapuram andSalem . The district administration and police have now issued press statements warning people off Emu farming or investments. The Susi birds are now being fed by the government but they will all die soon as feeding them is very expensive.
Bihar’s ignorant Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Resources Department Minister is asking the World Bank to give Bihar money to start emu farming! His department says that they will sell it as a medicine, that emu oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects – a claim that Australia does not make! Previously he had tried to make rat eating popular. How many farmers will have to commit suicide before India bans emu farming?
Tamil Nadu is not alone. For the last few months teams of People For Animals have been going round Uttarakhand checking emu farms. Farmers in Nainital had started breeding emus some years ago. Now, the emus have been abandoned and the farmer ruined. The farmers have stopped feeding them and lakhs of these birds are dying of starvation. Nothing can be done as there is no space to keep them.
The companies insist that the emu is a bird which is easy to keep and is very popular for its meat, oil, leather and eggs. None of these claims are true. The fact is that emu meat is a failure. It is tough and difficult to cook. In fact even Australians do not eat emu meat. Susi started a restaurant with emu meat as the main fare. No takers. The emus require lakhs to feed. They grow to 6 feet. They have to be fed several times a day, 4 kg. of food each. They eat seeds, fruit, insects, young leaves, lizards, other small animals and animal droppings. They do not eat dry grasses or older leaves, even if that’s all that is available to them. Emus also need charcoal to help them digest their food.
Each requires 10 litres of water daily. The female lays eggs only during October to March and the maximum number are 10-20 eggs, one every 3-5 days. Emus lay eggs with difficulty. Only a few lay eggs at one time and an incubator is needed to hatch them. But incubators are uneconomical unless there is a reasonable quantity of eggs to sustain the cost of production. They get diseases like encephalitis.
As for selling them for food, the price of emu meat is Rs. 450 a kg – an impossible price. The egg sells for Rs. 2,200. The eggs are dark green and very difficult to eat at one go and impossible to keep. In 2010 Punjab Agro Tech promoted the emu at its business fair, saying that omelettes of its eggs were selling at Rs. 5,000 per omelette in 5 star hotels – a claim found to be utterly false. In fact, 5 stars do not even have emu on their menus. The egg is never sold because it is too expensive and it is needed for breeding more birds. After 15 years there are still not enough eggs in India to make a business out of selling them. Now the emu companies are claiming that they will sell feather and nails, cooking oil and beauty products!
There is no meat market developed yet for export or for local sale and no symptoms of it so far. In any case there are no foreign offers for the meat. So far the oil processing and other industrial ventures remain only in newspaper and radio advertisements.
An entrepreneur in Anand, Gujarat who expected to reap huge profits from killing the bird, is now selling them away as pets. The farmers of Hoshiarpur are now bankrupt as are the emu farmers of Maharashtra – a scam that broke in 2010 and was ignored.
Uttarakhand , Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu have crashed. But that doesn’t prevent more states and more ignorant state administrations from pushing emu meat. Goa, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh are pushing this. Bihar’s ignorant Animal Husbandry and Fisheries Resources Department Minister is asking the World Bank to give Biharmoney to start emu farming! His department says that they will sell it as a medicine, that emu oil has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative effects – a claim thatAustralia does not make! Previously he had tried to make rat eating popular.
How many farmers will have to commit suicide before India bans emu farming?