bird flu is spreading in Bangladesh despite efforts to control it. By February 19, the H5NI virus outbreaks had been reported in 43 out of 64 districts. The nation's poultry industry, one of the world's largest, is now confronted with its greatest challenge since large-scale poultry farming was introduced in the 1980s.
The virus was first detected in Bangladesh in late February 2007. Health workers quickly culled 30,000 birds to contain it and the government declared a bird flu outbreak. Since then, authorities have culled 700,000 birds at 157 poultry farms across the country and have imposed restrictions on poultry movement.
Authorities say the situation is under control. But poultry operators are not convinced. The virus, which resurfaced several times in the past one year, has hit hard the nation's us $2.14- billion poultry industry. Over 6.5 million people work in the country's 300,000 poultry farms.
The outbreaks are particularly damaging at a time when the country's economy is under strain after two consecutive floods and a super cyclone.
About 225 million birds, both in commercial and backyard poultry farms, are at risk from the flu. Industry operators say sales have plummeted chicken sales have halved due to panic among consumers. Several restaurants have taken chicken off their menu. There has also been a steep rise in poultry feeds. "The industry has incurred a loss of about Tk 5,000 crore (us $71 million) in the past one year," says Moshiur Rahman, convenor of the poultry industries co-ordination committee. "The situation is so bad that we have to push our chicks to poultry farmers at nominal prices," says Shah Habibul Haque of the Aftab multipurpose farm. Haque's hatchery, one of the biggest in the country, is incurring a loss of Tk 200 lakh every month.
For small poultry farmers the loss is even more. "It is a question of survival for them, since they have to sell a-day-old chicks for Tk 7 each as against the production cost of Tk 22," says Haque.
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