Farmers cite rising costs, bird flu and knock-on effects from the global economic crisis as provincial chicken farms close.
DOZENS of the Kingdom's chicken farmers say they have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars as they are forced to shut down. They blame the global economic crisis for their woes and now fear the possible impact of bird flu, they said.
Chuon Hout, owner of the Poung Peay chicken farm on the outskirts of the capital, is one of those affected. He told the Post that his business was felled by a combination of the global economic crisis and disease.
"My business failed, and I lost my investment of more than US$9,000," he said. "My chickens all died from bird flu, and then the economic crisis hurt me further. I'm scared to continue in this business."
Chuon Huot said at least five chicken farms in his village have closed - all for the same reasons.
It is a similar story in Damnak Ampil village in Kandal. Farmers there said the high cost of buying and rearing birds had made the business unprofitable since selling prices are too low.
Man Veasna, 57, lost $4,000 on his chicken farm, and said 25 other farms in the village had gone bust.
"Do you know why so many chicken farms have gone bankrupt? I can tell you that the main reason is the increasing cost of raising chickens - this has exceeded the income that can be earned from them," he said. "If we continue raising chickens, we will lose more money, and eventually our homes and our land."
The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) said it did not have statistics on the number of farms that have gone bust.
"We just don't know," said Sar Sochetra, the office manager in MAFF's department of animal health and production. "We only know that there are 237 chicken farms breeding the birds for meat, and 45 farming them for eggs. We don't know how many people they employ."
Sar Sochetra said meat-raising farms have about two million chickens, while egg-raising farms have about one-tenth of that number.
One of the largest buyers of chicken in Cambodia is fast-food retailer KFC. Benjamin Jerome, general manager of KFC Cambodia, said the firm buys 20 tonnes of chicken a month for its four outlets.
"We buy all of our chicken locally - we don't import any of it," he said, although he declined to name suppliers.
Chan Sophal, president of the Cambodian Economic Association, said he is concerned that some bankrupt farmers have borrowed money from banks, while others have sold land to raise the capital.
The result is that some have been thrown into poverty, he said. Chan Sophal blamed a combination of low demand, low retail prices and high input costs.
Sim Phanny, 45, a bankrupt chicken farmer in Damnak Ampil, sold her rice field for $12,000 and bought a chicken farm with 4,000 birds to try to improve her family's living conditions.
"But I failed with that business, and lost all the money from the sale of my rice field," she said.
Damnak Ampil Commune Chief Sy Nuon said 50 chicken farms with 4,000 birds each had closed in his commune since October when the effects of the global economic crisis started to drive down selling prices.
He said prices being paid to farmers are now as low as $2 per kilogram, about half the price the meat sells for in a major Phnom Penh market,
where prices have recently picked up again - chicken retail prices have risen nearly 16 percent in the capital in the past six months.
"I am very concerned for those people in my commune who have lost their chicken farms and sold off their land," said Sy Nuon.