Kurdistan's Poultry Production Capacity Falling

KURDISTAN - 75% of Iran's poultry farms have closed as a result of power and fuel crises.
calendar icon 28 August 2008
clock icon 5 minute read

The amount of imported frozen chicken is on the increase as the searing summer and lack of fuel and electricity have forced the majority of Kurdistan Region's poultry farms to close their doors.

According to statistic published by the Kurdistan Association for Raising Poultry, during the three months of May, June, and July 2007, around 1,080,000 chickens were produced in Suleimaniya's poultry farms, while during the same period of 2008, only 545,000 chickens re produced in those poultries.

This 50% decrease during one single year is causing alarm amongst owners and agriculture economists.

As one of the very few sectors of local production, poultry production was used to satisfy most of the region's demand; the rest was imported from outside, and particularly from Brazil.

However, as the bird flu became a threat to the region's residents in 2006, imported chicken meat was banned by the Health Ministry as a preventive measure against the transmission of the epidemic from already affected regions. Hence, people were forced to buy locally produced chicken meat and eggs only. But even after the bird flu threat was over and imported chicken and eggs regained entry into Kurdistan, people were still afraid to consume imported poultry products and stuck to local products, something that continues today.

But now, as local production capacity has fallen significantly, the question is whether consumers can easily shift back to Brazilian chicken or are ready to pay more for local chicken.

Lack of basic services on poultry farms has, in addition to shutting down many farms, increased cost of production and decreased quantity of production. The increasing sales price in the market has already opened the way for imported frozen chicken.

Awat Hama Aziz, deputy director general of animal resources and health in Suleimaniya, says that in spite of the extraordinarily high temperatures of this summer, the public sector has failed to supply sufficient electricity to most of the farms and those who have electricity are using their own power generators. Besides, the farm owners are not able to afford all this fuel consumption of their generators.

"Most of the owners' capital goes to providing electricity and fuel," Aziz told the country's local paper. "The process of raising young chickens costs too much and using private power generators is a main part of the production cost, which in turn pushes the selling price up."

Aziz added that this lack of electricity and fuel is despite the fact that poultry farms are in need of 24-hour supply.

"This is because of many reasons; for example, the air refreshment system needs electricity to operate. Farms also need to use fridges and freezers in addition to food preparation machines," said Aziz.

Sarwar Karim Agha, head of Kurdistan Association for Poultry Raising, confirms Aziz's claims and says that if the government provides the poultry farms with continuous power supply, the farms would save US$1,800 per one production cycle.

The Kurdish Globe says that yet another challenge facing poultry farm owners is the notable increase in the price of corn, which is the main food for chickens. According to what Agha says, a chicken consumes between 4 and 5 kilograms of corn in 50 days, which is a very high level of corn consumption.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has allegedly allocated US$16 million for 800 projects for the production and preservation of animal protein in all three provinces of Erbil, Suleimaniya, and Duhok. However, as Agha claims, this amount has not been spent and none of the projects have entered the implementation phase. He also expressed his concern about the government's carelessness about poultry farms and claimed that it has to promote local production.

Many investors in local production sectors as well as economists are concerned about the fact that the KRG doesn't yet have a law to protect local production against imports and imported goods have already taken control over the Kurdish market. Even many economists believe that the system in the region is exactly opposite to most other economic systems in the world as it promotes imports and foreign products and favors them over locally produced goods.

All these difficulties facing poultry farms have disappointed investors and thus become threats to the poultry production in Kurdistan Region.

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