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Singapore's duck slaughterhouses, sellers struggling after ban

By Lian Cheong/Joanne Leow, Channel NewsAsia
15 May 2006

SINGAPORE : Singapore's duck slaughterhouses and duck rice vendors are in dire straits following the bird-flu outbreak in the Malysian state of Perak in March.

Since then, there has been a drop in supply of live ducks from Malaysia's Johor state, leading to the price of the birds going up by 60 percent.

Now, some duck rice vendors are thinking of quitting, while duck slaughterhouses have started retrenching workers.

The price of a duck from Johor has gone up from the usual S$3.50 to S$5.50, but duck-rice sellers here say they don't dare raise prices because they are afraid of losing business.

They are just looking at other ways to reduce costs.

Said Jackson Seah, managing director of Yu Kee Duck Rice, "We are talking to the landlord about rent issues, but if we cannot resolve it for these four stalls, we might have to close them down."

Mr Seah, who runs a chain of 30 duck rice stalls, says many of his workers are already working half days.

Singapore's three duck slaughterhouses, which employ some 200 workers, are not faring too well either.

They estimate sales losses to be about S$5 million since the ban on Perak ducks, and they are taking some drastic measures.

Seven workers have been retrenched, 115 are on no-pay leave, and 10 others are working shorter hours.

Fifteen have also been told to find temporary employment.

Said Joseph Heng, chairman of the Poultry Merchants' Association, "We heard from the farmers that the Perak Minister has declared (the state) bird-flu free, so we'd like to urge the authority to check out the farms and let the workers back into the job."

The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority says imports can only resume after a 90-day period following culling and the complete disinfection of the last case of bird flu.

It says it will make arrangements to review and inspect the duck farms in Perak as soon as they are informed officially that the Malaysian state is free from the avian influenza. - CNA /ct