Bangladesh blockade batters poultry industry

By A Z M Anas, in Dhaka

- Last updated on GMT

Around 7,000 tonnes of chicken meat have remained unsold in the past two weeks
Around 7,000 tonnes of chicken meat have remained unsold in the past two weeks

Related tags Meat Poultry

A politically-inspired blockade of highways in Bangladesh, launched by the country’s opposition parties, and related vandalism of lorries trying to break through, is devastating a Bangladeshi poultry sector still reeling from avian flu.

The Bangladesh Poultry Industries Coordination Committee is claiming the country’s poultry industry has sustained losses of US$32 million since political turmoil erupted on 5 January, after police surrounded the home of Khaleda Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

Around 7,000 tonnes of chicken meat and 9.9 million pieces of day-old-chicks have remained unsold in the past two weeks, largely languishing on farms and in warehouses, according to the committee. The production cost of broiler chicks is US$0.44 while chicken is US$1.42/kg.

"We’re ruined… The severity of this year’s blockade is much higher than the last one in 2013. So far, five of our vehicles have been vandalised and drivers were beaten,"​ Fazle Rahim Khan Shahriar, managing director of Islam Group’s agro-division, told GlobalMeatNews​. The division has poultry breeding, feed production and broiler processing facilities.

"We’re losing our investment every day. Eggs and chicken supply is being hampered due to lack of transport. If we cannot do business, how can we repay bank loans?"​ he asked.

The biggest casualty are small farmers, Shahriar said, adding that it will be "almost impossible"​ to draw marginal farmers back into the supply chain once they are pushed out.

While his company’s farms have yet to be forced into culling, breeders across the country are already being forced to destroy 2.2 million day-old chicks each day after failing to deliver to processors, said Shahriar, who is also president of the Breeders’ Association of Bangladesh.

Khondoker Mohammed Mohsin, joint secretary of the Bangladesh Poultry Industries Association, said that, each day, the industry is losing US$4.2m in potential sales. "Losses are increasing day by day,"​ Mohsin said, urging the parties to resolve the crisis for the greater interest of the economy.

He said the poultry sector was suffering so much because, unlike garment factories, its supply chain includes around 93,000 farms criss-crossing the country, making them vulnerable to blockades and vandalism.

The secretary (senior official) of the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock Dr Shelina Afroza said her ministry had asked the police to give protection to vehicles carrying poultry birds, feed and vaccines.

"Our officials have been ordered to stay alert. We did the same protection during past blockades,"​ she told GlobalMeatNews​. "What else can we do?"

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