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Infectious bronchitis breaks out in chickens given away by govt in KP

Infectious bronchitis breaks out in chickens given away by govt in KP

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s Backyard Poultry Farming project suffered a setback after the outbreak of infectious bronchitis in chickens distributed among farmers in Peshawar and other parts of the province.

Veterinarians at the Civil Veterinary Hospital, Peshawar, have confirmed the endemic of infectious bronchitis, an acute, highly contagious upper respiratory tract disease in the Rhode Island Red chickens, which were recently given away to farmers.

They said the cases of infectious bronchitis were being reported to their hospital on a daily basis as recipients had confirmed death of their chickens.

“Farmers are regularly visiting the hospital and complaining either their chickens are sick or died due to the epidemic,” an official told Dawn here on Wednesday.

A recipient from Bahadar village on the outskirts of Peshawar, who visited the hospital, complained that the disease had transmitted from the RIR units to other chickens as wel.

Project coordinator insists farmers lost imported chickens due to lack of awareness

He said many RIR chickens were killed by the disease.

The Backyard Poultry Farming, one of the flagship projects of the PTI government, was launched in KP in Oct 2019.

Under the Rs170 million initiative, while around 41,000 units (each unit comprises five hens and one roaster) are to be given away to the low-income families by the end of 2020.

Around one million chickens will be delivered to eligible families at subsidised rates in the province during the next four years.

Each unit is being sold for Rs1,050. The total cost of one unit is around Rs3,000.

The project was launched in Peshawar with great pump and show during a special ceremony, which was attended by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, federal ministers and PTI stalwart Jahangir Tareen.

The programme was meant to address poverty and promote self-employment through the agricultural initiative.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation had also initiated the backyard poultry farming project in several merged tribal districts of the province last year and distributed thousands of chickens among the local communities.

Officials told Dawn that the project was launched in Peshawar district few days ago, while around 300 units of the Rhode Island Red, an American breed of domestic chicken, had so far been distributed among farmers.

A source in the directorate of general of livestock and dairy development confirmed that the disease had killed RIRs in large numbers during the quarantine period and after distribution.

He said the contractor had brought in around 30,000 RIR units for isolation.

“Majority of the chicken died during the isolation period,” he said, adding that the contractor procured more chickens, which were distributed without being kept in quarantine.

Project coordinator Dr Aftab Ahmad denied reports about the epidemic and blamed farmers for the loss of imported chickens.

He said the farmers lacked knowhow about poultry farming and in some areas, the people had slaughtered chickens.

“Some people took these chickens with the intention to slaughter them. The people kept chickens in cages in which we had given them and didn’t release them from the cages besides keeping them without feeding,” he said.

He denied that the contactors had supplied sick chickens.

“Flu in RIR and other chickens is a common disease and there is no epidemic,” he said, adding that chickens had also died due to poor feeding.

The project coordinator said the chickens were distributed in Peshawar, Swabi, Mardan, Charsadda, Karak and other districts and there’s no serious complaint about them.

He claimed that the project had received an overwhelming response from the local communities but some officials were also propagating against it and the department.

“Healthy birds were distributed to farmers,” he said, adding that mismanagement and mishandling might cause death to chicken.

Published in Dawn, February 13th, 2020

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