Thu, 18 Dec 2003

Poultry farmers forced to go out of business

Slamet Susanto, The Jakarta Post, Yogyakarta

An outbreak of Newcastle disease, which attacks domestic fowl, over the past three weeks in Sleman and Kulonprogo regencies has forced hundreds of poultry farmers to go out of business.

Aman Sugito, 48, an executive of the Paras VII poultry farmers' group in Godean subdistrict, Sleman, said on Tuesday the virus had caused nearly every chicken there to die suddenly.

The day before their sudden deaths, the infected birds had still been able to eat, and even lay eggs.

"Out of 25 members of the neighborhood unit (RT) here, only three still have chickens left. The others' birds are all dead," he said while pointing to an empty coop.

He said there were eight poultry farmers' groups in Godean with each having 30 members on average and each member usually raising between 100 and 300 chickens.

"But now, only a few of them, or around 25 percent, are still in business," Sugito added.

The head of the animal husbandry and veterinary section of the Sleman Agriculture and Forestry Office, Harjanto, said that besides infecting poultry owned by Godean farmers, the virus had also spread to other areas of the regency.

Apart from Godean, there are seven large poultry farmers' groups scattered across five other subdistricts, where most chickens have also died.

"Each group consists of 50 members. But when I went around, most of the farmers' chickens were dead. The epidemic killed about 80 percent of the poultry population," he said.

Kulonprogo animal husbandry office head Endang Purwaningrum said that the virus had killed thousands of chickens within her jurisdiction.

An interim investigation had revealed that the cause of the deaths was a strain of Newcastle Disease, a highly contagious poultry virus, she explained.