Poultry Farms Affected by Gas Cylinder Crisis

EGYPT - Every winter, Egypt is hit by a shortage of the gas cylinders which ordinary people use for household purposes, as well as a shortage of the fuel used by taxi drivers.
calendar icon 6 February 2012
clock icon 5 minute read

Experts and traders argue that the poultry farms are the main reason for the butane gas cylinder crisis.

The owners of these farms get the big depot owners to sell them the cylinders which they use to keep their fowl and their chicks warm.

The resulting shortage has pushed up the price of a cylinder to 50 Egyptian pounds (EGP); they should only cost EGP5 each.

According to Ministerial Decree No. 3/2009, the owners of cafés, poultry farms and shops who use butane cylinders for commercial purposes should be sent to prison and fined up to EGP1,000.

But this decree wasn’t put into effect because of the revolution which overthrew president Hosni Mubarak and his regime last February.

One gas depot owner, speaking on condition of anonymity, says that some brick factories use about 600 gas cylinders each per day. This has also contributed to the shocking rise in the prices of butane gas.

"I struggle to feed my family. How can I afford to pay EGP50 for a gas cylinder?” Ahmed Ali, a taxi driver with three children, asked The Egyptian Gazette, adding that he has to queue for hours for petrol.

"I often have to drive from petrol station to petrol station, only to be greeted by the same sign, ‘Out of petrol’. ”

A recent campaign, conducted jointly by the Supply Police and the supervisory authority responsible for supplies in Kafr el-Sheikh, turned up about 260 butane gas in 30 poultry farms.

Eng. Mohamed Shoeib, executive vice-chairman of the Petroleum Operations Authority, told Al-Wafd newspaper that many chicken farms and brick plants use large quantities of gas cylinders and it is this that has caused the crisis.

Dr Gamal el-Naggar, a vet working in the Veterinary Medicine Administration in Belbeis and supervisor of the poultry farms there, says the real reason for this annual crisis is that Egypt imports around 50 per cent of the gas cylinders it needs from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Algeria, but it cannot afford the rest.

"The problem is getting worse. Meanwhile, the cylinders are often late arriving," he adds, arguing that the Government of Kamal el-Ganzouri should provide the poultry farms with natural gas.

"It must do this, because poultry is a vital Egyptian industry, providing food security for millions of poor people who cannot afford to buy beef, which now sells for EGP50 or EGP60 per kilo in some upmarket districts.

"Around 90 per cent of these farms have stopped production due to the shortage of gas cylinders which they need to keep the chicks warm. If they aren’t kept warm, the chicks die and many people lose their jobs, so the Government should step in."

The poultry farm owners do not deny they use gas cylinders in their work, arguing that the State does not give them enough help. Chicks need an ambient temperature of 31 degrees Celsius in order to survive and the farmers want the Government to provide them with natural gas, instead of selling it to Israel at low prices.

Hajj Hussein Abdel-Hamid, the owner of a poultry farm in el-Sharqiya Governorate, had to close his farm because he could no longer afford the gas cylinders to keep his chicks warm. Every farm needs about 300 gas cylinders.

Another chicken farmer, Mohamed el-Shafei, ran up against the same problem. He had to buy three heaters for warming his chicks, costing EGP18,000 each.

He then met another problem – a shortage of the petrol and octane used to operate the heaters.

An additional expense is medicine: every 10,000 chicks need medicines costing about EGP15,000 in the first 45 days of their lives. In addition, the price of chicken feed has recently risen. One tonne of feed now costs around EGP3,400. Because of all of this, the public have to pay more for their poultry.

"A kilo of chicken now costs EGP14 and I need to buy 3kg costing EGP42 for my family. I’m fed up. Where are the fruits of the revolution? Basic commodities keep on getting more and more expensive," mother-of-four Amal Mahmoud told The Egyptian Gazette.

Souad Salah, a small-scale trader, told this newspaper that she used to sell three cages full of poultry every day, but now she sells only one cage at most, owing to the price hikes.

"People have begun to rationalise. This leaves us in a serious dilemma and the Government must help us by resolving the cylinder crisis as soon as possible," she said.

Ahmed Sawaff, who owns a chicken shop, says that the price of poultry will rise again, because of the shortage of both chickens and gas cylinders.

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