Al Mamun, 35, a poultry farmer from Noakhali's Companiganj, started his poultry business in 2015 with 32,000 chickens. Later, he took loans from a number of banks and started eight more farms. There were about 55,000 chickens of three breeds – Broiler, Layer and Sonali – in his farms.
But from 2019, his farms started to get infected by different diseases including Ranikhet, Gumboro, Coccidiosis, Pullorum, Bird Flu etc. At present, eight of his farms are closed as a large number of his chickens died, infected by these diseases. Many other poultry farmers of the district have also faced the same fate.
According to the District Poultry Farm Association, at least 1,300 poultry farms have shut down in the last few months due to diseases and rising chick, medicine, and poultry feed prices. The production of chickens and eggs worth about Tk20 crore per month has stopped and many poultry farmers are still bearing the burden of bank loans. Unemployment is also on the rise in the district where many workers on these farms have lost their jobs.
According to the association, by the end of 2020 there were about 6,000 poultry farmers in nine upazilas of the district. These farms produced chickens as well as eggs which were sold in different places of Chattogram and Cox's Bazar. The farms produced 600 tons of chickens and one crore eggs per month.
Association leaders said the government is losing a huge sum of revenue due to the closure of more than one thousand poultry farms in the last 5-6 months.
Poultry farmers said, in 2019, the price of a chick was Tk40-50, and the price of a 50 kg sack of chicken feed was Tk2,050. In two years, the price of a chick has risen to Tk60-65, and the price per bag of feed has gone up to Tk2,450.
They said the production cost per thousand broiler chickens is now Tk2 lakh. Of which, Tk20,000 goes for medicine and Tk1 lakh 25 thousand towards chicken feed. After 30 days, they can sell a thousand broiler chickens for Tk1 lakh 60 thousand, but a lot of chickens die of various diseases. If only the chickens were less infected by diseases, they could profit from their farms.
Al Mamun, a poultry farmer from Gangchil village of Companiganj, said, "Some 18,000 broiler chickens worth Tk1.17 crore on nine of his farms died of Ranikhet disease in June 2019. In the second phase, 36,000 chickens died of bird flu in January 2020. The market value was Tk2 crore 4 lakh."
Helpless, he closed the farms in December 2020. At present, he has a debt burden of Tk3.5 crore with various banks and complained that he did not get any incentive announced by the government.
Jahangir Alam, a farmer from Charyatra village in Companiganj, said he had about 3,000 chickens in two farms. But the farms have been shut down in the last three months due to the rising cost of chicks, medicines, food, transportation and farm management. At present, he and his four farm workers are unemployed.
Ariful Islam, a farmer in Charelahi union, said, "My three farms have been closed for a long time due to the situation in the country and rising prices of medicines and food in the market. Faced with huge losses, I don't have the courage to start anew at present."
According to the District Livestock Office, at present, there are a total of 1,944 poultry farms in nine upazilas of the district, including 1,521 broiler farms, 169 layer farms, with 147 Sonali/Faumi and 108 turkey farms. Of these, only 343 broiler farms and 60 layers farms are registered.
Besides these, there are more private poultry farms in different parts of the district. The demand for meat in the district is 3.84 lakh tons and production is 3.89 lakh tons. The demand for eggs is 33.90 crore but production is 29.73 crore, as per the association.
The demand for meat in the district is 3.84 lakh tons and production is 3.89 lakh tons. The demand for eggs is 33.90 crore but production is 29.73 crore, as per the association
Engineer Belayet Hossain, general secretary of the District Poultry Farm Association, said, "Poultry farmers in the district are being held hostage by a syndicate. The syndicate increases the price of chicks, food, and medicine without any prior announcement. Since there is no government agency monitoring and oversight, they are doing this on their own for several months in a row."
He said, despite being severely affected by the crisis, no farmers have received any incentive payments from the government or any low-interest bank loans.
"Currently, poultry farmers are in more trouble in the Covid-19 situation. I request the government to to list affected farmers to provide them incentives and interest-free loans," he added.
District Livestock Officer Shahidul Islam Akand said, "Some 778 affected farmers of the district applied for incentives. Of them, 736 farmers have been given government incentives of Tk16 crore 17 lakh in March 2021. Incentives will be provided to the farmers who are not included in the list after listing them at the upazila level."
Acknowledging the rise in the price of chicks, medicines and poultry feed, the official said, "We have nothing to do in terms of controlling the chick, medicine, and feed market. However, for the convenience of farmers, the market should be properly regulated."