Wednesday, September 08, 2004

AVA visits Pulau Ubin for precautionary bird flu checks

Channel NewsAsia - 8 September 2004
Report by: Johnson Choo

SINGAPORE : Officials from the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority have visited the backyard farms on Pulau Ubin as part of checks to make sure bird flu does not enter Singapore.

The visits are also to make sure that the public safety precautions put in place back in February are being obeyed.

But villagers are still worried about their own livelihoods.

Families and farmers on Pulau Ubin were reminded last week to make sure that they did not have more than 10 poultry each.

The visit by AVA officials was to remind them about the dangers of bird flu, and to make sure that by next Wednesday any extra birds are slaughtered.

Needless to say this has upset the farmers.

"Only the rich keep pets. These are not pets; they're our livelihood," said Soh Hock Cuan, a licensed farmer.

While the AVA officials understand their unhappiness, they say the poultry quota and other precautions are absolutely necessary.

"If there are no chickens, that would be even better. But we have to work out a number that we're comfortable with. If you have up to 10, the chances of the virus multiplying are less as compared to more chickens. Because if you have more hosts, it means that you have more chances of getting viruses," said Dr Lim Chee Wee, head of AVA's virology branch.

Of the 19 families on the island who still keep poultry, five have farming licences.

Among them is Lee Chin Hah, who has been rearing chickens and ducks for the past 40 years.

He pays S$100 a year for the licence and spends another S$400 each year on medical checkups to prove that he is healthy.

He says if he can only keep 10 birds, he should be compensated.

Mr Lee said, "Why restrict? It's like telling you to sell only 10 cups of coffee a day. It's unfair."

But the AVA has pointed out that the licence also allows the farmers to rear fish or to grow fruit and vegetables. - CNA

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