Poultry farmers across the country have threatened not to report any cases of bird flu incidence on their farms for fear that their birds will be culled and compensation will not be paid to them.
This follows the inability of the government to pay the farmers about GH¢11 million as compensation for culling 111,000 birds during the Avian influenza (bird flu) outbreak two years ago.
The Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs approved GH¢11 million as compensation for the poultry farmers whose birds were culled (destroyed). Out of the amount, the farmers claim only GH¢1 million was paid as compensation to 25 farmers.
The Graphic Business has gathered also that most of the farmers have decided to defy the reporting regime and now send their birds to the market as soon as they see signs of the disease in their farms, regardless that the disease is a deadly strain of a virus that attacks poultry and is fatal for human consumption.
The deadly H5N1 virus or bird flu has killed people worldwide, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, since 2013.
Cost so far
The Veterinary Services Directorate of the Ministry of Food and Agricultural (MoFA) has described the development as unfortunate because it was likely to lead to an epidemic if the government did not act fast.
Available figures from the Veterinary Services Directorate show that the disease has affected about 66 poultry farms across the country as of May this year, with the recent occurrence in January.
So far, the country has lost huge sums of money due to the culling of 111,000 birds, various quantities of eggs and some bags of feed since the outbreak was first recorded in May 2015.
Farmers on government’s throat
The Secretary of the Techiman Poultry Farmers Association, Mr Emmanuel Soglizu, who spoke to the Graphic Business in Accra, blamed the government for not doing enough to support the ailing poultry industry.
He stated that the government had not provided the needed support in the creation of awareness on the disease since its outbreak two years ago.
Mr Soglizu minced no words when he announced plans of the farmers to defy the reporting regime as a protest against the government to cough the rest of the funds earmarked for compensation.
“After all, they (government) can only know about the disease when we the farmers report it to them. Therefore, we are going to advise ourselves,” he said.
He noted that if robust measures were not implemented to halt the spread of the highly pathogenic Avian influenza, the poultry industry would collapse.
The secretary, therefore, called on the government to provide a detailed explanation as to how the funds earmarked for the compensation was used to combat the disease.
An affected farmer, Mr Abraham Odei Tetteh, recounted how he lost his entire poultry farm as a result of the disease, with a firm assurance of receiving compensation, but said he had still not received anything from the government two years after the outbreak.
That situation, he indicated, had totally collapsed his poultry business.
“I am a pensioner and I have children in school. Poultry farming is my only source of income and now that all my birds have been destroyed I cannot tell how I will be able to survive,” Mr Tetteh said with sorrow.
He said he would join any action to press home his concerns to put pressure on the government for the compensation to be paid.
Another farmer, Mr John Attipoe, who also lost his birds through government’s measures to control the disease, said the compensation was needed to help farmers settle their debts.
“If the essence of the compensation was to enable the beneficiaries invest the funds back into poultry production, why then are they keeping our money,” he quizzed.
“For me, the Veterinary Services Directorate destroyed about 20,000 of my birds and promised the government will compensate me but until now I have not heard anything again from either the government or the directorate,” Mr Attipoe said.
Veterinary loses moral right
When contacted, the Deputy Chief Veterinary Officer of the Veterinary Service Directorate, Dr Kingsley Micky Aryee, said the government’s inaction on paying compensation to the farmers was undermining the operations of the health supervisory directorate of the industry.
“Looking at the trend ofevent for the past two years, the Veterinary Service Directorate does not have the moral right to go out there and tell any farmer to do this or that because their birds were culled and they have not been compensated,” he stressed.
Asked about the threat issued by poultry farmers not to report cases of the disease, he said it was quit unfortunate, but the situation might lead to a likely epidemic if the government did not take action.
“In fact, the farmers on a number of occasions have told us they will not report the incidence anymore, and they will restock their farms contrary to the directive for them to stop as part of measures to control the disease,” he said.
Essence of compensation
Dr Aryee said the introduction of the compensation was to help encourage poultry farmers to report any outbreak of the bird flu early and contribute to efforts to contain the disease.
According to him, the government was fully aware of the importance of the compensation payment to affected poultry farmers in the wake of the outbreak of bird flu in the country.
All efforts to reach the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to react to the issue did not yield fruit.