I just bought chicken for 280 bucks per kilo!

Why is chicken so expensive in Tripura?

As you probably know, I currently live in Kanchanpur sub-division of North Tripura district. It’s one of the poorest sub-divisions in the state, and at least a 6 hour drive (in good days) away from Agartala, the state capital. I just bought chicken for 280 rupees a kilo! If you are surprised at that price, take this - chicken was 450 a kilo for some time during the lockdown. I’ve been reliably told that the poultry chicken here comes from Hyderabad. That explains the crazy pricing - a chicken-neck tax on chicken, plus a Kanchanpur tax because it’s so difficult to reach here. The roads are in bad shape and there’s no rail connectivity (not because of lockdown, there are no railway lines in the sub-division).

You might ask me

Arun, why don’t you buy locally available chicken? Why the Hyderabadi chicken?

Well, my answer is - desi murgi is 650 per kilo.

You might then ask me

Okay, that seems expensive. How about mutton?

😢 Don’t make me cry. It’s 1200 per kilo.

These prices made absolutely no sense to me. Back in Kerala, my family is enjoying chicken more than once a week because price went as low as 50 rupees a kilo because of a bird flu scare. (My family doesn’t scare that easily.) Beef is available in plenty for 300 per kilo, and mutton also at a more reasonable 700 per kilo.

People still buy them. Markets are teeming.

Despite such high prices, people still buy them. Rich and poor. And here’s were I am really baffled - even people who have very less income (say less than 10,000 a month for a family of 6), continue to buy them on a pretty regular basis. It could be a pooja, or a special event, or just normal weekly habit. At the end of the month, they have barely anything left in their hand. Yes, it’s their personal decision on how to spend their money. Having said that, I’m judging them - how can they not prioritize the future of their young kids? They talk of giving their kids good education, all the necessary tools to succeed in life - but take no action to save money to invest in their future. Instead continue to hope for a government job. Interesting fact? For a state with a population of only 36 lakhs, there are 1.5 lakh people employed directly by the state government! This is not even counting the many thousands employed by government through voucher payments. Over the several decades of rule by the left-wing government, the population became overly dependent on state support, and in the wrong way. My own personal philosophy is that the government has to invest heavily in education, health, and infrastructure, and then create an enabling environment for private businesses, especially small and medium ones to thrive. Sadly, Tripura is no such place. In my own personal view, I don’t think the BJP government is also shifting in that direction. It’s political suicide to stop recruitments and reduce the size of the government quickly. I just hope that they have it in mind for the long term.

Final thoughts

I hope people in Kanchanpur make better financial choices. Yes, I understand that the share of consumption expenditure is high among people with low disposable income. However, I’d consider paying 280 for chicken or 1200 for mutton as luxury, even in high income states like Kerala.

Arun Sudarsan
Arun Sudarsan
Economist and Policy Researcher

Arun is an Economist, passionate about Open Data and its potential to increase state transparency and accountability. Loves teaching. Previously worked at NITI Aayog. To subscribe to this blog’s mailing list, please enter your details here. Check your spam folder if you are missing updates. Thanks for subscribing!

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