Bahrain poultry farms on verge of closure
Manama, October 17, 2010
Bahrain's six biggest poultry farms could be forced out of business within 12 months, it has been claimed.
Owners say the absence of clear guidelines regulating the sector have led to them suffering major financial losses and resulted in a massive shortage of chicken.
Owners alleged Municipalities and Agriculture Affairs Ministry officials were taking decisions without properly studying the impact they will have on the market and the consequences for consumers.
Each of the six farms get one-day-old chicks and hay from Bahrain's only authorised chicken meat distributor the Delmon Poultry Company.
They are not allowed to sell grown up hens to anyone else in the market other than the company.
However, owners claim that the way the chicks were being distributed lacked logic as agriculture officials simply divide them randomly among farms.
The result has left them operating at between 40 and 70 per cent of their capacity, despite the fact the Delmon Poultry Company was willing to supply them more.
The six farms, all located in Hamala and Buri, are Al Safa, Wasmi, Khalil Khalaf, Al Ghadeer, Naseem and Dhaif.
Owners are now urging the Cabinet to form a fact-finding team to prepare a report on the situation to be presented to His Majesty King Hamad in a bid to save them from bankruptcy.
'I have a capacity for 250,000 hens in my farm, but I am only given 185,000 one-day chicks to raise,' said Al Safa owner Jameel Ali Salman.
'Delmon gave me 200,000 chicks last year, after getting approval from agriculture officials, but it then dropped suddenly to 170,000 and now I am given 185,000,' he said.
'There are random decisions being taken considering that my farm can take up to 250,000 and I could double that if additional facilities were built as I have a lot of unused space.
'But I would have to think hard before spending millions on that because why waste space when there are no clear guidelines on what number of chicks I would be allowed to grow.'
Salman, who represents the six farms on the ministry's poultry committee, said the body, set up to ensure the success of Bahrain's poultry industry, was not working.
'That's the problem with a committee that doesn't follow guidelines and is based on random judgement rather than proper study,' he said.
'The committee should hire experts to assess our farms and facilities, open our accounts to determine the number of chicks we can raise, but this has never happened.
'Everything is done through phone calls with Delmon calling ministry officials, who are members of the committee and telling them that there are one million chicks and asking how to distribute them.'
Salman said consumers were also victims since there was not enough chicken in the market to meet demand, claiming the country had a shortfall of around 40 per cent.
Owners also claim the BD200,000 annual budget allocated for vaccinations was being mismanaged with unnecessary medicines being purchased.
For the past 10 years the six farms have been buying their own medicines and demanding that the budget was spent on other needs.
They want chicken carcass incinerators to be bought and Near Infrared (NIR) Diffuse Reflectance Spectroscopy facilities and laboratories built.
Al Naseem owner Yousif Mahdi Hussain said the farms often get in trouble with the police whenever they burn dead or sick carcasses, which breached environment laws.
'Bahrain doesn't have an incinerator and we have no other way to get rid of dead hens other than burning them and this has brought us into trouble,' he said.
'Instead of spending BD200,000 on bird flu medicines and other unnecessary medications and later burn them after they expire this money can be used to buy incinerators, NIR facilities and laboratories built.'
Meanwhile, Hussain said he had taken a huge bank loan to develop his facilities to accommodate 80,000 chicks.
'Today, I am given just 40,000 chicks to raise in a place that can accommodate double the amount and it is not just me suffering. In a year's time we will be all out of business,' he said.
'We spend on employees, utility bills amongst other fees for just half or less than half in most cases of what we should be producing.
'Cheap and low quality chicken meat will be the only meat available in the market if we decide to shut down and that's something eminent according to the given situation.'
Al Wasmi owner Mohammed Al Maskati said that his farm could accommodate up to 70,000 chicks, but only 30,000 were being supplied.
'Delmon has chick stocks and they want to get rid of it, but they are not allowed to give it to us by agriculture officials,' he said.
'The market needs chicken and the reason people are not allowed to buy more than three chickens from supermarkets is because the Delmon Poultry Company is short of supply and has to meet huge demand.'
Al Maskati claimed people would be forced to eat frozen chicken within 12 months unless the farms were allowed to fully utilise their facilities.
Industry and Commerce Ministry assistant under-secretary for domestic trade Hameed Rahma said a chicken buying quota was in place to ensure that the subsidised goods met the demands of families.
'There is a ministerial decision that bans the sale of Delmon's products to hotels and restaurants because there is not enough chicken to meet regular family use,' he said.
'A quota was introduced to ensure that more chicken meat went to more homes, considering that supply doesn't meet demand.'
Owners called for the ministry committee be changed and made up of a representative from the Municipalities and Agriculture Affairs Ministry, Industry and Commerce Ministry, Health Ministry, the Cabinet, Financial Audit Bureau, Delmon Poultry Company, Northern Municipal Council and themselves.
Municipalities and Agriculture Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi and Delmon Poultry Company chairman Yousif Al Saleh are out of the country and unable to comment.-TradeArabia News Service