Thursday, February 05, 2004

"Ubin residents must sell fowls by tomorrow"

Ubin residents must sell fowls by tomorrow
By Goh Chin Lian
The Straits Times, 5 February 2004

PULAU Ubin farmers and residents have been given until tomorrow to sell off all their 600 to 700 fowls.

If they want, they can keep fewer than 10 birds as pets, provided the animals are caged. Unsold chickens, geese and ducks will be confiscated and slaughtered and the meat donated to charities, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said at a press conference yesterday.

Although Singapore is free from bird flu, experience from Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia showed that 'the disease always begins with a small backyard farm' which had no proper safeguards, said AVA chief executive officer Ngiam
Tong Tau.

On Ubin, there are four farms licensed to rear poultry and grow vegetables and 18 households which let their birds roam freely.

The AVA does not think they can impose the same strict safeguards as the big poultry farms on the mainland in the short term.

But instead of rounding up the birds and putting them down, the AVA has offered to buy them.

So has the Poultry Merchants' Association, whose members will end up eating the meat. Association secretary Chiew Kian Huat said it was buying the chickens at between $5 and $10 each, ducks at $20 and geese at $50 or more.

After spending about five hours explaining in Mandarin, Teochew and Cantonese to residents why the birds had to go, Mr Chiew said they managed to secure pledges for more than 100 chickens and 30 ducks. They plan to approach the remaining farms and households today.

Mr Lim Chor Gan, 60, who agreed to sell the 30 chickens he reared for eggs, said in Mandarin: 'We'll have to buy eggs from the provision shop at the jetty.

'It'll also be hard to have a meal of kampung chicken.' Mr Lim has lived all his life on the island.

'Perhaps we'll get to rear chickens again in the future.'

Till then, Dr Ngiam suggested: 'We'll help them produce better vegetables.'

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