Daily Star

  • Poultry industry in dire straits

    FOWLS and eggs have dropped off the household menu due to heightened incidence of bird flu. Many restaurants, especially the wayside food vending shops are suspected to be selling curry made of cheaply bought off sick chicken to poor consumers. Due to their initial denial mode, the authorities failed to take timely precautions. The spread of avian flu has overtaken the livestock department's containment measures. Thus we face a fully blown crisis. There are a few ways in which we have been hard hit: first, the rather affordable source of protein in a market boiling over with highly priced mutton, beef and fish, the nutrient intake among the poor and middle income groups has touched a new low. More seriously, in the last one year, the poultry industry has sustained losses of at least Tk 4100 crore owing to outbreak of avian influenza, on and off -- thanks to poor surveillance and monitoring. This has had ominous ramifications on the rural economy in particular and the national economy in general. As it is, livestock took a severe battering from two successive floods followed by cyclone Sidr last year. As though that was not enough of a blow to the rural economy we now encounter the fallout of bird flu. Poultry industry has been a fast developing sector with bank loans and micro-credits funneled into it fostering a whole range of medium and small enterprises. Millions of people are dependent on the poultry industry, either by employment or through wholesale and retail networks. We can suggest three specific steps to revitalise the industry. First and foremost, bank loans on concessional rate of interest should be given to poultry farmers. Secondly, those who had taken loans from the banks their repayment must be rescheduled. Last but not least, the consumers need to be sensitised about cooking fowls and eggs in temperature above 70 degrees centigrade which makes it safe for consumption. Insofar as handling chicken is concerned gloves and masks need to be used. There seems to be a flurry among poultry industry owners in seeking bank loans and compensations. We must be able to separate the chaff from the grain and provide support to the eligible ones.

  • Migratory birds in Moulvibazar pose bird flu threat

    Moulvibazar district is in high risk of avian influenza (bird flue) as haors in the area are favourite places of migratory birds that are potential carriers of the virus. Every winter lakhs of birds from the cold region in the north come here and their number has recently increased in Hakaluki and Hail haors following environment-friendly steps taken by the Department of Environment (DoE). Migratory birds are one of the carriers of bird flue virus but there is no laboratory in Moulvibazar district to conduct tests for detection of the bird flu virus, experts said. Following detection of bird flue virus in a poultry farm in Kulaura upazila in January, people of the district are in panic of the virus. Hakaluki Haor, one of the largest haors of the country, covers 20 thousand hectares of land in three upazilas of Moulvibazar and two upazilas of Sylhet district. Another big haor, Hail haor comprises areas in two upazilas of Moulvibazar and one upazila of Habiganj district. So the area sees large gathering of migratory birds in winter. Dr Nurul Islam, upazila livestock officer of Juri upazila in Moulvibazar, said a laboratory to examine bird flue virus should be urgently set up at a place in eastern part of Moulvibazar district.

  • Poultry policy on cards

    The government is to announce a poultry policy aimed at ensuring a hygienic, well-managed and sustainable industry. "We are framing the policy to enable the industry grow under regulations. It's at a final stage. We are hopeful to make the policy effective from the next month,' said Sunil Chandra Ghosh, director general of Department of Livestock Services. Earlier, a committee comprising representatives from private sector and the government framed a draft policy. The draft of the policy titled 'National Poultry Development Policy, which focused mainly on commercial poultry farming, is going to be announced after about seven years. The initiative to formulate the policy was taken in 2001. Under the policy, commercial poultry farms will be required to get registrations. The farms must not be set up in densely populated areas. The draft policy has also fixed the minimum distance between two commercial farms. Moreover, no commercial farm can be set up within two kilometers of grand parent stock and parent stock producing farms. The farms must ensure hygiene, the draft policy said. To assess the demand and supply for day old chicks in local market, the government will develop a database by receiving production related information from the public and private breeding farms and hatcheries. Moshiur Rahman, convener of Bangladesh Poultry Industries Co-ordination Committee, said the database will remove the inconsistency in production of poultry chicks. "In absence of any production and supply related data, sometimes production surpasses the demand while sometimes poor supply push the prices of day-old chicks up due to supply crunch,' he said. The government is going to finalise the policy when the country's Tk 8,000 crore poultry industry is struggling to survive in the aftermath of bird flu that led to closure of thousands of farms. Operators hoped the policy will help put an end to the trend of setting up of poultry farms indiscriminately. According to the policy, a Livestock and Poultry Quality Assurance Institute will be established.

  • Free healthcare service for farmers at city hospital

    For the first time in the country, a four-bed special unit was opened at Japan Bangladesh Friendship Hospital (JBFH) in the city yesterday with a view to providing healthcare service to the poor and marginalised farmers at free of cost. The unit titled 'Jibon Kheya' was opened under the joint initiative of JBFH and Hridoy-e Mati O Manush, a popular agriculture-based documentary programme of Channel i, as part of their joint healthcare programme for the farmers. Agriculture Adviser Dr CS Karim inaugurated the unit on the second floor of the hospital. Prior to inauguration, a meeting was held at the reception room of JBFH. Speaking at the meting, the adviser said JBFH and Hridoy-e Mati O Manush have taken a noble initiative on a noble day. He said about 1.5 crore farmers of the country through their labour and merit are producing food for 15 crore people but they often do not get deserved price. "If anyone is called a national hero it is our farmers who continue their struggle in an ailing state,' he said, adding, if the farmers get sick while working on the field it will affect food production and food security. CS Karim said a specialised unit for the farmers should be opened in all the hospitals of the country for providing basic healthcare service to them. Shykh Seraj, director of both the programme and Channel i, said, "I am waiting for that day when the four-bed unit will become a 400-bed hospital.' He said they have already completed their farmers' healthcare programme in five districts and during the visit they noticed that most of the farmers are unaware of the primary healthcare service. Seraj said integrated efforts by all a must to build such a specialised hospital for the farmers. He said Hridoy-e Mati O Manush stepped into fifth year yesterday and it has become a voice of the farmers. Dr Junaid Shafiq, chairman of JBFH, said they started their farmers' healthcare programme last year and during this time they realised that primary healthcare service is not enough for them. "Later, we thought to open a unit for the farmers where they would get all the healthcare services including admission, test, medicine and surgery at free of cost,' he added. "Farmers are the main driving forces of the country and we (doctors) are prepared to serve them always,' he said, hopping that the hospital will become a specialised hospital for the farmers. Faridur Reza Sagor, managing director of Channel I, and Dr Sarder A Naim, managing director of JBFH, also spoke on the occasion. Later, the adviser visited the unit and talked to three patients who are now receiving treatment there. Talking to The Daily Star, one of the patients Rafiqul Islam, a farmer from Shibpur of Narshingdi, said he has been receiving treatment at free of cost. Abdul Halim, husband of Shefali Begum who is also receiving treatment there, said, "I never thought that my wife could receive such treatment.'

  • Hailstorm kills one, damages crops

    A farmer was killed in Austagram upazila in Kishoreganj district as hailstorm hit the district on Tuesday evening. Hailstorm in Kaliganj upazila in Jhenidah district caused serious damage to crops and mango buds. Nobi Hossain, 55, of Deoghar village of Alinagar union of the upazila, was working at his Boro paddy field in the haor area when hailstorm hit, leaving him dead on the spot, reports our Kishoreganj correspondent.

  • BRAC Bank plans massive rural expansion

    BRAC Bank has asked for permission to open 140 new branches this year as part of a huge expansion scheme aimed at bringing full banking services to rural areas. The move, if approved by Bangladesh Bank, will almost quadruple the size of the bank's existing branch network and will be the backbone of its further push into small and medium sized business lending. "We've planned to set up 100 branches in rural areas out of the proposed 140 new branches,' Abidur Rahman Sikdar, head of marketing and corporate affairs of BRAC Bank, told The Daily Star yesterday.

  • 'Ensure farmers' rights for dev'

    Shykh Seraj speaks at a press conference at Channel i office in the city yesterday. On his left is Faridur Reza Sagor. About 25 years ago when the people of southern region especially the district of Bagerhat were enduring hardship, only one man's initiative changed the socio-economic scenario of the whole area. Syed Keramat Ali, a shrimp cultivator of Faltita at Mollarhat under Fakirhat upazila of Bagerhat district, brought the changes in people's lives by starting shrimp cultivation in 1978.

  • Steps taken to save Hakaluki fowls from bird flu

    The district administration has taken steps to prevent spread of Avian Influenza (bird flue) among migratory birds in Hakaluki haor. Samples taken from different species of birds in the Haor have been tested but no germ of the disease was found, sources said. Entry of fowls into the district from other districts have been restricted and spraying of anti-septic medicines on vehicles carrying fowls and eggs within the district has been made compulsory. The measures were taken after bird flue virus was detected in a poultry farm at Kulaura last month.

  • More chickens culled in capital

    Culling of about 1.50 lakh chickens at Omega Poultry Farm in the city's Badda area continued for the second consecutive day on Sunday. The avian influenza virus was detected at the poultry farm on Friday and the livestock department started culling the chickens of the farm on Saturday. Dhaka district livestock officer Sheikh Saidur Rahman told New Age on Sunday that they culled 95,048 chickens of the farm till 7:00pm, and would kill 54,000 more chickens.

  • Farms in bird flu peril

    The country's poultry industry continues to be in grave peril with sales already halved due to panic among consumers in the wake of recent bird flu outbreaks, operators said. Many restaurants have already taken chicken off their menus while home consumption too has slumped. "We are going broke. We are selling chicks to poultry farmers at a token price to minimise our losses,' said Shah Habibul Haque, director of Aftab Bahumukhi Farm Ltd, a leading poultry hatchery. He claims their business has incurred on average a loss of Tk 2 crore every month since November last year. "Things look even grimmer for small farm owners. They are losing their capital,' he said adding that currently they charge only Tk 7-8 for a day-old chick, about one third of production cost at Tk 22. The avian influenza, which broke out in Bangladesh early last year, has now reached epidemic proportions sweeping across the poultry industry that accounts for over 1.6 percent of GDP. According to official data, the government has detected bird flu virus in 152 farms in 43 districts and culled 6.42 lakh fowls as of February 16. Operators report a loss of nearly Tk 5,000 crore because of plummeting sales coupled with a steady rise in the prices of poultry feeds. "At a rough estimate, we have made a loss of nearly Tk 5,000 crore,' said Moshiur Rahman, convener of Poultry Industries Co-ordination Committee. Industry sources said thousands of farms have been forced to shut down in a year due to bird flu outbreaks and hike in prices of feed ingredients. Around half a crore people are directly or indirectly employed in the industry involving 1.5 lakh farms. "Our sales have dropped drastically,' said Delwar Hossain, owner of Janata Poultry at the Kaptan Bazar, one of the biggest wholesale-cum-retail markets for poultry products in the capital. He said daily sales in his wholesale store hovered around Tk 1.50 lakh in January. "Now I struggle to have sales of Tk 25,000 a day,' he said. Khokon Mia, a retailer at Kaptan Bazar, said the sales at his shop have dropped 58 percent on point to point basis. In retail outlets, chickens sell at Tk 65-70 a kg, whereas only a month ago they would cost Tk 80-85 a kg. "I sold Tk 67,300 worth of poultry on January 16, but in a month, it dropped to Tk 28,000. We are going through a terrible time. People have incredibly cut down on their poultry intake,' said Khokon who also supplies live chickens and eggs to a number of city restaurants. Restaurants and party centres are having their share of troubles with chicken consumption taking a nosedive. "The consumption has fallen by around 50 percent amid bird flu scare,' said Ali Akbar Badal, general manager of XINXIAN, a Chinese restaurant at Kalabagan. Star Kabab's Karwan Bazar branch Manager Mohammad Shahin said their restaurant too has seen a sharp drop in consumption of chickens and eggs. "It's a serious crisis as the plunging demand for poultry pushes the farmers and hatcheries to huge losses,' said head of Brac Poultry MA Saleque, who believes overall consumption has been slashed by half.

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