Pandemic spells doom for Ethiopia’s chicken farmers as 650,000 birds culled

FILE PHOTO: A boy holds a chicken for sale at a market ahead of Orthodox Easter in Lalibela May 4, 2013. REUTERS/Goran Tomasevic/File Photo

As COVID-19 numbers continue to balloon by the day, the impact of the disease continues to be felt all around the world.

In Ethiopia, chicken farmers have been forced to get rid of their birds in order to cope with a biting lack of demand.

According to Reuters, between May and June, a chicken farm on the outskirts of Addis Ababa culled 650,000 young chicks, most of them just a day old in order to ensure a balance in production and demand.

Ethio-Chicken is one of the biggest supplies of chicken to the capital, but are struggling to find the usual demand that has seen the business thrive for years.

As part of Ethiopia’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the government imposed movement restrictions that had had a huge downward impact on businesses across the country.

“In those five weeks we also had to actually pull some eggs from our hatchery, so that we could destroy them as eggs instead of chicks”, Reuters quotes Fiseha Tefsa, marketing manager of Ethio-chicken.

The impact of the pandemic is extremely disrupting for the poultry sector and has potentially devastating social consequences in a country where Finance Minister Ahmed Shide said in May nearly 15 million people could need government help because of the pandemic.

“This sector used to employ a vast group of society in different regions of the country, whether it is the youth or women, across all age groups. Now, because we are not receiving day old chicks as the supply chain is totally disrupted, the people employed in the sector are not working at all,” Reuters quotes Meba Gabriel Estifanos, a veterinarian who also owns a small farm in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia has reported 9,503 COVID-19 infections and 167 deaths, according to data from the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The disease has already hurt the country’s economy, forcing the government to dig into other coffers to fund its response. But the impact may hurt even more, as jobs are now at risk.

“If we are not working, it is difficult for us to pay our employees,” Reuters quotes Bantayehu Wolde-Michael, manager of Capital Hotel, a five-star hotel in Addis Ababa.

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