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Contractors Claim Safety From Bird Flu, Recession

Scores of families in Ang Snuol district, Kandal province, earn a living through contract poultry farming for a single private company, and many of them say they feel secure in their income and health of the birds.

“We don’t have to worry about the loss or about the bird flu virus,” said Pang Ith, a 35-year-old contract farmer. “But we are happy for getting $6,000 a year from the farm contract.”

Around 81 farming families earned about $364,500 in 2008 from contracts for C.P. Cambodia Co., LLC, a Thai company, which provides between 3,000 and 4,000 chicks per farm, along with food, vaccine and technical expertise, and pays between $500 to $750 for two-month-old birds.

Some of the chickens are sold on the Cambodian market, and others are taken back to Thailand for processing and sale there. Farmers here say they are protected from the economic crisis because C.P. Cambodia takes the risks. They also say the company ensures the birds are healthy.

“Each contract farm gets an income between $3,000 to $6,000 per year from raising chickens,” Heang Thu, chief veterinarian for C.P. Cambodia, said in a recent interview. “The farmers who have many hen houses are rich in the village, because they don’t face profit risks raising the chickens. The company is responsible for the loss when the chicken market is low.”

Those who have contract farms make a better living, acknowledged Noy Sy Nuon, chief of Damnak Ampil commune, who said 27 families in the commune work for the Thai company.

“Many farmers” had requested contracts with the company, Heang Thu said, but the company would not fill their requests for fear of dropping local chicken prices too far.

“The chicken market in Cambodia is too small,” he said. “If we enlarge or develop the contract farms more and more, we will lose profit. But if the government wants the farmers to have a job to do, the government should ban the import of chickens along the border. Every day, the cost of chickens in the market is low, because chicken imports are coming more and more to Cambodia, dropping prices.”

Chek Srey Him, a 38-year-old farmer in Pong Teuk village, said her yearly income was $5,400 per year from contracting, providing her a better living than before.

“I can send my two children to school, and they can learn English,” she said. “And I can buy some land for my children.”

Mean Reth, 37, in Tropaing Trach village, said contract farming provided him $3,000 per year. “This profit is better than if I farm rice or drive motorcycle taxis,” he said.