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Spike in feed prices push small and medium poultry farms to the brink of closure

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by Suresh Perera

With import restrictions pushing up poultry feed prices to an all-time high, a grave shortage of chicken and eggs is anticipated in the short term as small and medium scale producers are finding it increasingly difficult to keep pace with soaring production costs, a senior industry official warned.

A 50% drop in production has been projected within a few months as moderate farms are now unable to sustain their businesses and will eventually close down, says Ajith Gunasekara, president of the All Island Poultry Association.

“The reverberations will be felt in December when the demand balloons during Christmas”, he predicted.

He said that Sri Lanka produces only half of the poultry industry’s demand for maize, the main ingedient of poultry feed.

With consignments from India and Ukraine no longer coming due to import restrictions, the disruption in supplies has seen a spike in prices for the local produce.

A kilogram of maize has climbed to anything between Rs. 90-95 in the marketplace due to the non-availability of imports at competitive pricing, he said. “This will sound the death knell to small-time poultry farms”.

In any poultry farm, feed absorbs 70% of the operational cost, Gunasekara stressed. “Apart from maize, producers also have to procure soya, corn and vitamins at substantial cost for the feed combination”.

The prevailing Covid-19 related travel restrictions have also aggravated the crisis the poultry industry is grappling with as the continued closure of wholesale distribution points have crippled supplies to the retail chain, he complained.

This means the retail trade has no access to the produce to supply traders and mobile vendors who have been declared essential services to service consumers, he said.

There are a multitude of ‘meat shops’ run by poultry producers island-wide, but they have no stocks as wholesalers, who collect chicken from farms, have not been authorized to operate during the travel restrictions, he protested.

Those in the chicken processing business are also facing immense hardships as they have not been permitted to operate, he explained. “Overall, the losses suffered by the industry will be enormous”.

Retailers cannot be expected to collect stocks from farms in the provinces even if they are able to make it as they don’t have either freezer trucks or necessary storage facilities, Gunasekara pointed out. “Moreover, visits to farms have been restricted due to Covid-19 preventive measures”.

“We have asked the government to intervene in the matter as the industry is in deep trouble with skyrocketing poultry feed prices pinning down producers on the one hand and accumulating stocks in storage facilities on the other”, he noted.

He said that traders have also been dealt a big financial blow with stocks of chicken in their deep freezers no longer fit for consumption.

The farm gate price is Rs. 430 per kilogram of chicken (whole bird), but despite a MRP (Maximum Retail Price) of Rs. 550 in terms of the price control mechanism, it is being sold for Rs. 700 per kilo these days due to procurement difficulties, he continued.

The reluctance of people to eat fish due to contamination fears following the X-Press Pearl disaster has also triggered a bigger demand for chicken. Unlike fish, cooked chicken can be refrigerated and eaten for about a week by an average family, Gunasekara elaborated.

He said the annual demand for chicken is between 15,000 to 18,000 metric tons. There’s an annual surge of up to 18,000MT during the April-December festive season.

The production of eggs ranges from 700,000 to 800,000 per day. Purchased at a farm gate price of Rs. 12-14 each, retailers at present sell each for Rs. 20.

“We were prepared for a two-week lockdown, but with the continued closure, the situation is getting more desperate by the day”, he said.

 

 



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Hemas collect discarded carbon pens, toothbrushes from schools

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By ifham Nizam

Hemas Holdings PLC and the Environment Ministry yesterday came together to provide schools with containers to collect used plastic items such as ballpoint pens and toothbrushes. Hemas Holdings PLC, will supply the containers until April 2022.

The agreement was signed by Environment Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and Hemas Holdings PLC CEO Kasturi Chellaraja Wilson, Executive Director Shiromi Masakorala, Senior Manager Ishani Ranasinghe and Manager Mindika Tillekeratne were also present on the occasion.

Minister Amaraweera said it took 400-500 years for used ballpoint pens and tooth brushes to decompose. Amaraweera instructed officials not to spend any government money on the scheme.

The government school system alone discarded between 80-100 kilograms of used ballpoint pens a day. As with other public and private institutions, there was no accurate information on the ballpoint pens used and discarded by individuals, the Minister added. The Minister said that it had been estimated that at least one million toothbrushes were discarded daily.

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AZ vaccine delay baffles over 500,000 awaiting second shot 

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DGHS to be summoned by HRCSL  

 

By Shamindra Ferdinando 

The Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL) has decided to summon the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena for failure to address HRCSL’s concerns pertaining to the ongoing Covid-19 vaccination programme. 

Dr. Jagath Balasuriya, Chairman, HRCSL, on May 28, in writing, requested Dr. Gunawardena to submit a comprehensive report on the vaccination programme by, or before, June 15. 

A senior spokesperson for the HRCSL yesterday (27) told The Island that Dr. Gunawardena would be summoned as the request made in terms of Human Rights Act of Sri Lanka Act No 21 of 1996 was not adhered to. 

The HRCSL consists of Dr. Jagath Balasuriya, Dr. M.H. Nimal Karunasiri, Dr. Vijitha Nanayakkara, Ms. Anusuya Shanmuganathan and H.K. Navaratne Weraduwa. 

DGHS is the senior officer in charge of Covid-19 inoculation drive. 

In HRCSL letter dated May 28 addressed to Dr. Gunawardena, one-time lawmaker Dr. Balasuriya said that clarification was sought after receiving representations as regarding the inoculation drive. 

Dr. Gunawardena didn’t answer his phone for us to clarify the issue at hand. 

Meanwhile, controversy surrounds the decision to suspend giving Pfizer as the second jab to those who had received Covishield (AstraZeneca). According to the health ministry, 2,171 Covishield recipients were given Pfizer on July 7 and further inoculation was suspended abruptly on July 8 claiming that sufficient stock of AstraZeneca would be available in the third week of July. The announcement was made by Deputy Director General Health Services, Dr. Hemantha Herath who declared the immediate suspension of Pfizer vaccines for recipients, who had got Covishield as their first dose. 

The Island yesterday sought an explanation from Dr. Herath as regards the inordinate delay in inoculation of those awaiting the second AstraZeneca jab. Dr. Herath said that administration of Pfizer was stopped on July 8 after the Health Ministry received an assurance from the WHO that 1.4 mn AztraZeneca stock would be available in the third week. Dr. Herath emphasized that if not for that assurance, the government wouldn’t have stopped using Pfizer. “Now, we are hopefully awaiting the delivery of the promised stock under Covax facility.” 

Dr. Herath said that the Health Ministry was in touch with the WHO in that regard. The Health Ministry spokesperson was responding to The Island query whether the issue at hand was taken up with the Japanese embassy.

The Japanese embassy in Colombo on July 13 announced that Japan would provide approximately 1.45 million doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine manufactured in Japan to Sri Lanka through the COVAX facility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. The embassy said that the vaccines were expected to be delivered during the coming weeks.  

Dr. Herath acknowledged that the sudden stopping of the well planned programme to vaccinate those who had received Covishield with Pfizer as the second dose somewhat derailed the operation. 

Responding to another query, Dr. Herath said that so far Sri Lanka had received 264,000 doses under the Covax project though the initial estimates indicated 4.5 mn doses in a quarter once the operation got underway.  

Dr. Herath emphasized that on the part of the health ministry and the government there was absolutely no effort to deceive those who received Covishield as first doze. Over 500,000 of those who had got Covishield first jab remained to be inoculated with the second AstraZeneca jab, Dr. Herath said, asserting that Sri Lanka was blessed with a functioning system to carry out the challenging task. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get the required supply of doses of Covishield as pledged by the WHO Dr. Herath said, assuring they would do whatever possible to inoculate those who had been deprived of Covishield second dose. 

Dr. Herath explained that disruption of the Covishield supply chain caused a major crisis here. The health ministry spokesman asserted that the unexplained long delay caused uncertainty and in a way undermined public confidence in the health sector.

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North and East to benefit from 1.6 mn Sinopharm doses donated by China

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa with Chinese Ambassador in Colombo Qi Zhenhong (pic courtesy PMD)

China has donated another consignment of 1.6 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Sri Lanka to fight the pandemic. Two SriLankan flights, UL869 and UL865, carrying the vaccine arrived at the Katunayake Bandaranaike International Airport at 5.30 a.m., yesterday (27).

Chinese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Qi Zhenhong officially handed over the vaccines to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat, yesterday (27).

In addition to these vaccines, a stock of syringes has also been donated. The vaccines were handed over to the Ministry of Health to be given to people over the age of 30 years in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. 72% of the vaccines used in the vaccination process in Sri Lanka is Sinopharm.

President Rajapaksa said that he highly appreciated the support provided by the Chinese Government for the control of COVID – 19 by donating 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines on March 31, 500,000 on May 26 and 1.6 million doses yesterday.

The President pointed out that by the end of August, all those over the age of 30 would be vaccinated and the tourism industry would be able to commence from September. “Therefore, the Chinese people are invited to visit Sri Lanka again”, the President said.

Ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi and Douglas Devananda, Secretary to the President P.B. Jayasundera, Senior Advisor to President Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Foreign Secretary Admiral Jayanath Colombage, and the Political Officer of the Chinese Embassy Luo Chong was also present on the occasion.

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