B'desh poultry industry faces crisis following bird flu

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Dhaka, Feb 3 (UNI) Livestock workers culled more than 51,000 chicken, ducks and pigeons in the past 24 hours, sending Bangladesh's poultry industry into an acute crisis, officials and traders said.

An official at the Bird Flu control said more than 4,23,000 fowls were culled since March last year as avian influenza affected the country's 54 sub-districts in 34 districts.

''It's an alarming situation,'' Dr Biduit Kanti Das of the Livestock Department told UNI. He said if the current trend continues the poultry industry's existence will be threatened.

More than Tk 10,000 crore were invested in this growing poultry sector employing several million people.

Already many private poultry farms were shut down. Panicked people stopped buying chickens bringing down their price in local markets.

President of World Poultry Science Association, Bangladesh Chapter Moshiur Rahman said, ''Thousands of poultry farmers have been compelled to shut down their farms following a sharp fall in the prices of poultry products after the reported attack by avian influenza.'' He said now this sector should be declared an emergency sector to save millions of farmers.

Mr Rahman said, ''No one has so far died after eating poultry eggs or chicks, but people have panicked after the media reports on outbreak of bird flu virus among poultry chicks in Bangladesh.'' He said poultry traders have set up 11 check posts across the country from where medicines were being sprayed on poultry eggs and chicks before they are sent to markets.

''Only setting up of check posts or spraying medicines on the poultry products or culling the poultry birds cannot help,'' he said, adding, ''People must also be made aware that avian influenza will not inflict them if they eat chicks and eggs after boiling them adequately.'' Livestock expert Dr Manjur Aziz urged the government to consider the poultry industry as the top most priority sector as employment of thousands of farmers is at stake.

According to South Asia Enterprise Development Facility, the poultry sector supports five million people directly or indirectly, constituting 1.6 per cent of Bangladesh's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Moreover, this figure only includes commercial farms and does not account for the more than 2 million backyard coops run by rural families, mainly women.

In recent years, the poultry industry has been growing at an annual rate of about 20 per cent, recording a turnover of 1.25 billion dollars to 1.5 billion dollars in 2006. But industry analysts estimate the 2007 figures may well have already fallen below this mark because of the bird flu.

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