Bhutan Govt Urged to Control Poultry Imports

BHUTAN - About 54 poultry farmers of the Bhutanese south province Sarpang submitted a signed petition to the national poultry development centre, appealing for control of the increasing import of frozen chicken into the country.
calendar icon 8 June 2012
clock icon 4 minute read

Asia News Network reports that poultry farmers stated, in their petition, that high import of frozen chickens is not only affecting the market of locally produced chickens, but also impacting the livelihoods of hundreds of families, who depend on poultry business.

The continuous import of frozen chicken means spending huge amounts of INR, and also leaving locally produced chickens unsold for the last few months, they said.

"We invested all our savings, and took loans from both financial institutes and the poultry centre to start a poultry business,” the farmers said. “But if the market of our poultry business remains unchanged, it wouldn’t only fail us from repaying the loans, but also affect our livelihood.”

A poultry farmer in Dekiling, Sarpang, Yugal Chandra Rasaily, said farmers started wondering what caused the drastic decline in sale of local chickens in the market.

"While inquiring, we found that, in Pasakha, about 35,000kg of chicken were left unsold, and about 25,000kg were left unsold in Sarpang,” he said.

Yugal Chandra Rasaily said they learnt that there were several big importers, including a Phuentsholing-based one, who import tonnes of frozen chicken from Tamil Nadu, Bangalore and Kolkota in India.

The frozen chickens were also found to be sold at a lesser price, compared to the fresh chickens in the market. “When importers sell frozen chickens below the actual rate, the customers, especially hotels and restaurants, claim that the frozen chickens are cleaner than the local produce,” another poultry farmer Prem Kumar Rasaily said.

A kilogram of frozen chicken costs 160 ngultrum (US$2.9), which is sold to customers in bulk at 110-120 ngultrum ($2 to $2.1), said farmers, while fresh chickens are sold for 140 ngultrum ($2.5) a kilogramme.

Farmers suggested importers could instead start poultry business to benefit all. “Instead of helping local farmers earn from what they produce, importers are trying to spoil the market of local production,” said another farmer.

They also suggested that a small processing unit at local level be set up, to provide clean, well-processed chicken for customers.

Livestock officials said Bhutan has been importing frozen chicken for a long time, and that its impact wasn’t felt then, because there wasn’t enough local production.

But now with the number of poultry farmers and dealers increasing across the country, the import’s impact can be seen.

"Having to do everything manually, and unable to undergo proper processing, make the locally produced chickens look unclean,” they said. “Packaging is the main factor that is causing a majority to opt for frozen chicken, which looks much cleaner and well processed.”

The national poultry development centre has forwarded the farmers’ petition to the director general of the department of livestock in Thimphu.

Livestock officials said three departments of trade, marketing and cooperatives and livestock would help solve and regulate the problems

Bhutan agriculture and food regulatory authority officials said the import of frozen chicken has declined, compared to few years ago. Their records show that Bhutan imported 505.981MT of frozen chicken in 2011, and 597.877MT in 2010.

The national poultry development centre’s record shows that, in 2010, local poultry farmers across the country produced about 116MT of chicken.

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