Friday, December 12, 2008

Cambodia: Falling prices, not bird flu, hurt chicken sector: farmers

Tuesday, 02 December 2008
Kampong Chhnang province

Prices are down by nearly half from earlier this year, pushing Kampong Chhnang chicken farmers to the brink of bankruptcy

CHICKEN farms in Kampong Chhnang province are being forced into bankruptcy by a decline in the price of chicken and the quality of imported chicken feed, according to local farmers.

Farmers have complained that their birds are being killed by low-quality feed from Thailand and that any birds that survive to maturity were fetching less and less on the open market.

"I just closed my chicken farm in early [November]," said Sok Phea, 47, a chicken farmer in Tuol Kh'schach village, Rolea Piear district.

Sok Phea said that about a quarter of his 8,000 birds had fallen sick and died since he started large-scale chicken farming in May and dismissed suggestions the deaths of local birds were being caused by avian influenza.

"My chickens died after I had them eat low-quality chicken feed imported from Thailand," he said. "It was not caused by avian influenza."

During bird flu outbreaks in Cambodia over the past few years, thousands of poultry have been culled and several chicken farms closed down to avert the spread of the lethal H5N1 virus.

According to Ly Sovann, deputy director of the Communicable Diseases Control Department at the Ministry of Health, seven Cambodian people died of the H5N1 virus between January 2005 and the end of 2007, but that there had been no reported instances of bird flu so far in 2008.

"However, we are always careful, especially from January to April, because it is the cold season," he said.

Falling profits
Sok Phea said the death of his chickens and the low market price were forcing his business and others to the brink of bankruptcy.

"After just five months in the chicken business, I lost about US$7,000," he said, adding that he had sold chicken for more than 12,000 riels ($3) per kilogram earlier in the year to around 7,000 riels in November. The drop had been triggered by a flood of cheap chicken imports from Vietnamese and Thai poultry farms, he said.

San Dina, 23, another chicken farm owner in Rolea Piear district's Khsam village, started raising chickens about six months ago, and claimed he has lost between $1,000 and $2,000 for each of his first three generations of birds.

He added that his profits had been decimated by falling market prices and that, like Sok Phea, many of his chickens had died because of low-quality imported feed.

"My business could be bankrupt soon if the market price remains low," he said. "However, I am still struggling to continue raising the chickens."

Meanwhile, Sok Phea said he plans to stop raising chickens until it again becomes profitable to do so.

"I will start farming again when the market price is higher and imported chicken feed is of a higher quality," he said, adding that only one of Kampong Chhnang's four chicken farms is still operating.

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