July 1, 2011


Bangladeshi chickens destroyed by bird flu



A third of Bangladeshi farm-raised chicken has been destroyed by the most recent bird flu outbreak, according to a top poultry farmer on Thursday (Jun 30) who demanded reimbursement for the affected farms.
He said the government needed to roll up its sleeve and help the affected farms with compensation and vaccines in an effort to prevent Avian Influenza from inflicting a mortal blow to the key industry.
"We have estimated that 10,000-15,000 poultry firms have been affected by bird-flu. Unfortunately, the government shows it to be 153," said Syed Abu Siddique, president of the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Association,
He said the outbreak has cut chicken production by more than 33% in the country's 150,000-farm strong poultry sector, wiping out thousands of jobs and billions of taka in investment.
Siddique said the government has exempted the industry from a number of taxes for the next couple of years in a bid to boost its growth and make the country self-sufficient in bird and egg production.
"But no fiscal measures could bail out the industry unless bird flu is controlled and the affected farms are paid damages," he said.
The government has recently waived all taxes on the poultry sector and offered tax-holiday facilities for the next two years to 2013.
Siddique protested "unfortunate" government ban on import of key poultry vaccine to fight bird-flu and non-payment of compensation in commensurate with the number of culled birds.
In the proposed budget, the finance minister had initially proposed imposition of 5% tax on the poultry sector, after revenue officials found abuse of tax benefits by some profitable farms.
But the tax was withdrawn when the parliament passed the Finance Act-2011 on Tuesday (Jun 28).
The government also waived the proposed turnover tax for poultry farms following a plea by leading farmers.
Siddique praised the government's latest fiscal boost, but he said the government should also come up with an effective and long term strategy to fight Avian Influenza.
"At the end of the day, no tax benefits will count if we cannot save our chickens from bird flu," he said.
Bird flu or H5N1 first broke out in the country in 2007 when more than a million chickens were culled and tens of thousands of small farms were closed as the flu ravaged the industry for more than six months.

Officials said the outbreaks this year are already three times higher than the same period last year, prompting the authorities to announce major bio-security surveillance in the main poultry farming region.

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