Thu, 10 Mar 2005

Poultry farmers blame govt for industry's collapse

Nana Rukmana, The Jakarta Post, Cirebon

Indonesian Poultry Breeders Association has claimed that the government is responsible for the collapse of the poultry industry across the nation.

Association chairman, M. Alie Abubakar, said on Wednesday that the government had been too slow in tackling the bird flu outbreak and this had led to the collapse of the industry.

"There have been no concrete steps taken by the government to tackle the impact of bird flu. The government has also been slow to respond to the spread of bird flu," said Abubakar.

Government officials at first only debated whether bird flu actually existed. "The officials just talked. They took no action. When they eventually responded, it was too late," he said.

The impact of this inaction was devastating. Since the bird flu virus struck the country two years ago, thousands of poultry breeders across the country have gone bankrupt, he said.

Of the 80,000 poultry producers who were in the industry, only about 8,000 are left. "The other 72,000 in Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan have packed up their bags," said Abubakar.

The collapse of the poultry industry has meant a massive loss of jobs. "Imagine, if one producer employed 5 or 6 people, this means that at least 400,000 people have lost their jobs," said Abubakar.

Besides being slow to tackle bird flu, the government has also been slow to fight off inroads into the market by foreign poultry producers.

According to Abubakar, the domestic poultry industry enjoyed a golden age between 1970 and 1980 when not a single foreign poultry producer entered the domestic market.

"At that time, each producer could easily exchange a kilogram of eggs for 10 kilograms of poultry feed," said Abubakar.

However, the situation has become more difficult since 1980 with foreign producers entering Indonesia.

Slowly but surely, foreign producers have infiltrated every corner of the poultry industry, both upstream and downstream, including fodder provision.

"The government has not established mechanisms to prevent them from flexing their muscles. This neglect has cost the domestic poultry industry dearly," said Abubakar.

He said that the government had started to pay attention to the industry, as it involved a great deal of money and employed a lot of people. "Each year, the industry turns over Rp 60 trillion," said Abubakar.

Meanwhile, Abubakar said he also regretted that the government had not reacted quickly to dampen the impact of the 1997 economic crisis on the poultry industry.

"Many poultry producers went bankrupt because production costs soared following the economic crisis," said Abubakar.

The government had provided subsidies for the purchase of poultry fodder, but not all producers could access the subsidy.

The Rp 480 billion subsidy was only enjoyed by big players in the industry, which ironically were mostly foreign-owned, he said. "There is no accountability in the distribution of the money. We don't know where the money is going," said Abubakar.