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Feb 25, 2004

Poultry industry plans upgrades

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It’s what’s for dinner in more Belizean homes than any other source of protein. And as a result the business of raising poultry is no small matter. Patrick Jones reports that even without Colonel Saunders, the chicken industry is still juicy.

Patrick Jones, Reporting

Over eighty farmers from poultry producing areas in the northern and western parts of the country met to hear how the industry performed over the last twelve months. According to Manager of the Belize Poultry Association, Orlando Habet, meat production accounted for twenty-nine million dollars last year, while the industry earned two point three million dollars from eggs. Habet told the A.G.M. that with those kinds of numbers, the industry did well in 2003.

Orlando Habet, Manager, Belize Poultry Association

“The industry has maintained its own. It contributes somewhere around three to four percent of the agricultural G.D.P., and about close to two percent of national G.D.P. In terms of monies, it’s close to fifty million dollars in agricultural output per year.”

According to association statistics, of all the meats that Belizeans consume, chicken makes up seventy-five percent of that amount. Habet says that in order for producers to meet market demand, they had to overcome some minor setbacks.

Orlando Habet

“The industry has done really well. We had some small problems in about March to May of last year in terms of egg production because we all realize the climate we live, and because of the type of housing that the farmers have for their poultry, there was slight reduction in egg production during those months of the summer, but it quickly got back to normal. So that was the only problem we had for the egg part of the industry. In terms of the broilers, which are the meat birds, we have been doing a lot of improvements in purchasing stocks that are of good genetic quality.”

The A.G.M. also heard presentations from the Belize Agricultural Health Authority, with which the association works closely to keep the industry healthy. Director of Animal Health, Doctor Victor Gongora, says that partnership is working well.

Dr. Victor Gongora, Director of Animal Health

“It’s a healthy one and we are moving now more from health into a lot of more quality assurance, because we don’t have health problem per se in our birds. But now we want to go at the barns to ensure that there is monitoring programmes, that the farmers are recording what they are doing, to give us an added assurance that not only are the birds healthy, but they are also not doing practices that could be harmful for the consumers at the end.”

Gongora says BAHA is also monitoring the situation in neighbouring countries to make sure that diseases don’t cross our borders. And he says that so far, the farmers are cooperating.

Dr. Victor Gongora

“We don’t have problems with the poultry producers. Basically because of a religious background, they tend to do what you ask them to do and if they tell you they will do something, they normally will do it. And that is why right now we have a very good working relationship with them. We have a very good programmes, they’re sponsoring all the programs that we do with them.”

Looking to the future, Habet says barring any major problems, the poultry industry will post another successful year.

Orlando Habet

“The poultry industry is doing a lot of work. We are working also closely with the Caribbean Poultry Association, of which we are a member. As a matter of fact, the chairman of the Belize Poultry Association is also the chairman of the Caribbean Poultry Association; he is holding that post for one year. We have regional programmes with the Caribbean Poultry Association, we have established about five or six protocols for food safety, for standards and labelling for Avian health, and we are trying to see if we can get these programmes to become regional programmes.”

Patrick Jones for News 5.

Habet says that to mitigate the effects of the hot weather, farmers are employing new strategies, including installation of proper ventilation in coops and the replacement of older birds with new stock that will start producing eggs in time for the hot months. In related news, three vacant posts on the Association’s Board of Directors were filled during the A.G.M. Chairman Bernhard Bergen was re-elected for another three years. Joining him on the board are Peter Harmes and Frank Froese. The other members are John Dueck, George Kornelsen, Ruben Thiessen, and Denver Plett.

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