February 25, 2004
Thai Farmers To Forsake Poultry Business
Thai farmers devastated by the bird flu outbreak may be forced to turned to another line of work.
Thailand's Kanchanaburi province is one of the first places in the kingdom to be hit by the bird flu virus.
The chicken farms there have been empty for over a month now and will remain empty for at least another 60 days.
At this point, farmers are still uncertain as to the compensation or financial assistance they will receive from the government.
During the height of the outbreak, government banks were instructed to implement debt moratoriums for all farmers suffering from the effects of bird flu.
Officials also assured farmers they would receive US$1 for every chicken they cull.
Through a registration process, farmers were instructed to inform authorities exactly how many chickens were destroyed.
The appropriate amount of compensation, officials said, would be passed through local administrative bodies.
But farmers insist the process is not that simple.
Mr Surawoot Choomsang, a chicken farmer, said "They (officials) told us to register, but how can we? We do not have any evidence as to how many chickens we actually buried. During the outbreak, nobody cared about the smaller farms. We had to cull the chickens ourselves."
Official numbers indicate that Thailand culled around 26 million chickens nationwide.
For larger commercial farms, Livestock Department personnel documented the exact number of culling for each infected farm.
Small-time chicken farmers insist they have been left out in the cold.
Mr Surawoot added: "We had full confidence in them (the government). Even though they have admitted their mistakes, how could they let something like this happen in the first place?"
Many farmers have since given up hope and have turned to tending rice fields.
Although the pay is a fraction of what they used to earn from selling chickens, some say it is better than waiting for help that may never come.