Bangladesh's poultry industry is still struggling to recover from a 2007 outbreak of bird flu that closed two-thirds of the country’s 150,000 related businesses and left half of the 5 million people who earned their income from it unemployed, according to reports.

Roughly 2.3 million chickens have been culled as a result of 550 avian influenza outbreaks since 2007. There were 171 outbreaks in 2011, and 21 so far in 2012. The most deadly year was 2008, with 226 outbreaks, according to the government’s Department of Livestock Services. Since 2008, farmers forced to kill their birds due to suspected H5N1 infections have been paid anywhere from US$0.49 for baby chicks to more than US$2 for older birds, but they say it's not enough. “Farmers often do not get the compensation, or get it [late] and face hassles to get it, resulting [in them] often selling the sick chicken in the markets, which is spreading the disease...and also threatening the public health,” said Syed Abu Siddique, president of Bangladesh Poultry Industries Association.


The government has said it is doing the best it can. “We are doing strong surveillance, with our full effort to protect the industry, and every farmer gets the compensation if chickens on their farm are detected [with] bird flu,” said S M Nazrul Islam, the director of Bangladesh's Avian Influenza Preparedness and Response Project and a senior official of Department of Livestock Services.

Prices are going up, say industry experts, and the country may need to rely on imports soon. Smaller domestic supplies have contributed to a price increase from US$0.27 for four eggs in August 2011 to US0.42 the same time in 2012, while the price of chicken has gone up 13 percent to US$2 per kilogram in the same period, according to the government. The experts say that improving public awareness, and bio-security on small farms — the measures farmers take to protect their animals from disease, or prevent an infection from spreading if it does break out, including quarantining sick animals, decontaminating equipment, and killing rodents — could help restart the poultry industry in Bangladesh.