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Cablegate: Trip Report of Visit to Poultry Farms in Savar

VZCZCXRO6984
RR RUEHCI
DE RUEHKA #0743/01 1270131
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 070131Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3984
INFO RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 9879
RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9076
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 1638
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 7915
RUEHGO/AMEMBASSY RANGOON 2542
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL CALCUTTA
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC//ISA/NESA
RUEKDIA/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC//J2/J5
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI//J2/J4/J5

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 DHAKA 000743

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT PLEASE PASS TO AIAG/HOLLIS SUMMERS, AIAG/TONY NEWTON AND
AIAG/NICHOLAS STUDZINSKI
DELHI PLEASE PASS TO FAS/OLIVER FLAKE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: TBIO KFLU PREL PGOV BG
SUBJECT: TRIP REPORT OF VISIT TO POULTRY FARMS IN SAVAR

REF: (A) DHAKA 730, (B) DHAKA 626, (C) DHAKA 569, (D) DHAKA 533, AND

PREVIOUS

1. (SBU) SUMMARY. On May 2, Econoff visited two poultry farms in
the Ashulia area of Savar district north of Dhaka. Both farms had
their entire stocks of egg-laying chickens culled due to H5N1 in
late March or early April. The two farms demonstrated widely
different levels of preparation and sophistication, but both are now
facing serious economic consequences after losing all of their
chickens. The economic impact of the outbreak is creating
distorting market effects, which in turn may create additional
potential health hazards, but the biggest hazard remains the
economic threat to the livelihood of millions of poultry workers if
a compensation plan is not enacted soon to ensure that culled stocks
can be replaced by those with the least economic resources to
restock themselves. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) LORAPUR FARM. Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock
officials provided Econoff with the name and address of Lorapur Farm
in Ashulia, Savar, and its owner, Mr. Md. Nadim "Nick" Chowdhury.
The farm started operation in October 2006 and employs 20 people. It
had approximately 9,500 W36 breed layer chickens bought from the US
and production was around 9,000 eggs per day. Econoff saw what
appeared to be a well-planned and executed facility with effective
restrictions on vehicle access and decontamination equipment
evident. The layout of the farm is two stand-alone coops and one
large coop separated into three chambers for a total of five
distinct flocks. The coop buildings seem well constructed, with
concrete disinfection footbaths built into the stairs at each coop's
doorway. The gap between the wire mesh walls and the roof was
plugged to prevent wild birds from entering. Employees demonstrated
their cotton masks, caps, and gowns worn around the chicken coops,
each stenciled with their names. The owner described a bonus system
rewarding both production and biosafety, ensuring that the workers
wore their protective equipment and observed good biosafety
practices. Even with all the coops empty due to culling a month
before, employees still wore their masks in the coop area to
reinforce good habits.

3. (SBU) PROBLEMS BEGIN. In mid-February, the farm had an outbreak
of worms followed by cases of Salmonella. The owner blames
contaminated locally purchased feed, claiming everything else was
tightly controlled except the feed in which he claims to have found
cigarette butts, wires, and rat feces. By late March, one of the
three attached coops began having sudden die offs of up to 200
birds, but with no visual symptoms of H5N1. The owner suspected
Newcastle disease, fowl cholera, or fowl pest, because egg
production did not decrease when corrected for flock deaths. The
die offs were not back-to-back, either; there would be a die off,
then a lull, and then the cycle would repeat. He began treatment
for Newcastle disease. [NOTE: Contrary to the owner's suspicions,
HPAI is not inconsistent with these observations. END NOTE.]

4. (SBU) H5N1 DETERMINATION. Chowdhury sent samples on his own to
the Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI) on April 6 for
analysis after necropsy of several of the chickens from die offs
showed none of the physical signs/symptoms of H5N1 highly pathogenic
avian influenza (HPAI): internal organs were normal, throats had
some mucus but nothing approaching the full blockage associated with
HPAI, and there was no discoloration of combs or wattles. BLRI
returned a finding of QH5N1Q the same day. The Army showed up with
guns drawn, and a written order was faxed later that same day,
followed by a team to cull the flock. The owner still seriously
doubts that his flock was infected with H5N1. A month later, he
still has not been provided with written official results and claims
the Ministry will only tell him that "his two samples came back
positive." The owner admits to having had previous negative
personal experiences with BLRI unrelated to avian influenza, and
made allegations of attempted solicitation of bribery for favorable
results.

5. (SBU) BHUIYA FARM. To view farms that had not been given advance
notice, Econoff asked the owner of Lorapur Farm to introduce him to
other neighboring farms. They went together to Bhuiya Farm
approximately two kilometers away which had 2,500 layer chickens,
had been in operation for eight years, and employed five or six
workers. Their breed was also W36 layers, but their stock was from
a local hatchery farm. Bhuiya was considerably less modern than
Lorapur. The coops' mesh was much wider and there were large gaps

DHAKA 00000743 002 OF 003


where it met the roof. The coops were empty of chickens and the
doors closed, but Econoff observed wild birds flying in and out of
one of the coops. Backyard poultry was also present in the area at
all times during the visit; when asked, the workers and their
families from the small rural community surrounding the coops said
no efforts had been made to kill any of the backyard poultry. Also
noted were cattle within ten meters of the empty coops.

6. (SBU) DIE OFFS AND H5N1. Bhuiya started having sudden die offs
of 100 or 200 birds at a time in mid-March, accompanied by decline
in egg production. Their first thought was Newcastle disease, and
they began treatment accordingly. They sent two samples to BLRI,
which came back positive for H5N1. Culling at this facility was
accomplished by the workers using "sacks of powdered CO2 to
suffocate the birds." The GOB provided disinfectant spray to the
farm and a seven day supply of Osiflu to each of the employees.
[NOTE. Osiflu is the locally produced Tamiflu equivalent. END NOTE.]
A Ministry of Health official examined the workers at that time, but
no follow up exam was done; the workers were simply told to contact
local health authorities if anyone had problems. The army was
present during the culling, but only in the distance cordoning off
the area.

7. (SBU) COMPENSATION IS CRITICAL. Bhuiya and other small farms
face serious financial problems following culling. They would like
to restock after the three month post-culling waiting period, but
financially may not be able to do so without a compensation plan for
their lost stock. Media continues to report that poultry farmers
will receive compensation for culled birds, will receive replacement
birds, feed, and medicines at no charge, and that commercial lenders
have agreed to soften loan terms and issue new loans. Chowdhury
from Lorapur farm sits on the joint industry / government committee
on compensation and confirms that while these issues are under
discussion, nothing has been decided as yet. He reports that the
following sectors are represented on the committee: Layers/Eggs,
Hatcheries, Veterinary Pharmaceuticals, and the Poultry Association;
the Feed Association was invited, but due to questions about
adulterated feed is not participating at this time.

8. (SBU) INDUSTRY ECONOMICS: EGGS. Chowdhury also says that since
late March, egg prices paid by wholesalers to farmers have decreased
from 3.73 taka per egg to 2.50 taka per egg, which is below the
farmer's cost to produce. The prices between wholesaler and
retailer have not changed, however, possibly due to pre-existing
contracts. Therefore, the wholesalers are reportedly making
substantial additional profits.

9. (SBU) INDUSTRY ECONOMICS: CHICKS. Chowdhury reports that in
Bangladesh day old chicks cost 40 Q 45 taka each, whereas the same
chicks cost around 6-10 taka each in India. This sets up a strong
incentive to procure them from across the border, possibly bypassing
import restrictions. The cost to the hatchery is about the same,
but with little competition in Bangladesh and no organization among
the buyers, the price is artificially high resulting in huge profits
for the hatcheries. One worrying element is that in culled area,
farms are not buying day old chicks, since they cannot restock for
three months. In those areas the price has decreased slightly,
resulting in overcrowding by some farms which were not culled but
which are cashing in on cheap prices, putting 3,000 chicks in a coop
designed for 1,000. This overcrowding can be a significant factor
towards the spread of multiple diseases.

10. (SBU) EPIDIMIOLOGICAL INFORMATION. Both farms bought feed from
THE same company, AIT Feed Mill, and both were treating for
Newcastle disease when BLRI tested their samples. When Econoff
asked if anyone from the government took down epidemiological
information like this, both agreed it was very important and were
sure that someone probably did, but were not able to provide
specifics of who, when, or how that information would have been
captured.

11. (SBU) COMMENT. The field visit demonstrated that even among two
farms as different as these, compensation is a critical issue for
both. It also showed a wide variety in responses by the GOB; for
example, at Lorapur both a rapid (if untrained in HPAI procedures)
military response and a reportedly professional veterinary response,
while at Bhuiya, a less meticulous response had the workers doing
the culling where there may actually be a higher risk with coops,
country fowl, and other livestock in close proximity to a rural

DHAKA 00000743 003 OF 003


community.

BUTENIS

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