By OSEAH PHILEMON
Papua New Guinea’s chicken industry is under serious threat as a result of cheap chicken meat from Australia being imported into the country, top industry officials have revealed. The situation is said to be getting worse for the country’s two major chicken producers – Tablebirds and Zenag – both operating in the Morobe Province.
The two companies together directly employ close to 4000 workers. But while there have been no cutbacks on staffing numbers the two companies say they have not employed any new people as both have been forced to cut production due to the ever increasing volume of Australian chicken being landed at cheaper prices especially in Port Moresby.
According to information given to the Post-Courier a total of 100,000 whole frozen chicken are imported into PNG from Australia each week. The local industry loses the same number each week through loss of sales. Figures from the industry reveal that in 2010 local chicken production was reduced by five percent due to imports from Australia. Then in 2011 the figure rose to 11 percent and it is estimated it will further increase to 22 percent or more this year.
General manager of Zenag Chicken Stanley Leahy said his company has been forced to cut production by 10 percent due to a reduction in orders for fresh chicken especially from their regular major buyers.
“ This is hurting the local industry,” he said.
“Our freezers are full because our regular buyers are not buying chicken from us,” Mr Leahy said.
One major supermarket chain has completely stopped buying local chicken and is selling only imported chicken from Australia.
Chief executive officer of Mainland Holdings Bob Hanson, who are owners of Tablebirds, said the company had suffered a 20 percent reduction in chicken production as most of the companies which buy chicken from Tablebirds were increasing their imports of Australian chicken.
“It’s hurting our market,” he said.
Mr Hanson said at least 100,000 meat chickens are being brought ino PNG each week and the local industry is losing the same number through denied sales. Mr Hanson said the big chicken price war in Australia has resulted in Australian chicken producers dumping their surplus supplies on the PNG market and this is causing the present problem for PNG’s own poultry industry as the imported chickens are sold at lower prices than the local chicken.
The local industry is crying out for help but no one in Waigani is listening. Mr Hanson said he had spoken to the Minister for Agriculture Sir Puka Temu about the situation facing the industry but the government is in the elections and nothing is likely to be done until after a new government is in office.
The importation of uncooked Australian chicken at cheaper prices started five to seven years ago and is continuing despite concerns raised by the industry and the PNG Poultry Industry Association about diseases and the threats to the local industry.
The 300-plus small village outgrowers who sell chicken to Tablebirds also face a bleak future if the importation of Australian chicken continues. Tablebirds has in fact stopped supplying day-old chicken to about one third of its village outgrower farms due to the reduction in chicken sales.
A senior company manager said the village outgrower program puts money directly into the hands of village people and the present situation will hurt them badly.
Post Courier, Monday 16th July 2012