Pak poultry industry demands 10-year tax holiday

Islamabad, May 7 :

Pakistani poultry farmers have sought a 10-year tax exemption to support their dwindling business after the detection of the H5N1 strain of bird flu triggered a fall in demand and prices, a poultry trader said.

“We have asked the government to give us tax exemption on income from the poultry business for at least 10 years to meet losses caused by the bird flu scare,” Abdul Basit said.

Basit, vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) in the country’s commercial hub of Lahore, was part of a delegation of the Pakistan Poultry Association, which met food ministry officials to present their demand.

The federal poultry board of the food ministry is to meet on May 9 to consider the tax-cut demand for the poultry business in the upcoming national budget due in mid-June.

Basit estimated a total loss of around $165 million to the business since the first case of avian influenza was reported in two poultry farms in North-Western Frontier Province (NWFP) on

February 27.

The presence of the deadly disease was later confirmed in at least nine more farms located on the outskirts of the capital Islamabad leading to the culling of 40,000 birds and the destruction of about half a million eggs.

“The tax incentives will not only help us overcome losses but will also encourage poultry farmers to stay in the business,” Basit said, adding that traders were also demanding interest-free government loans for poultry farmers.

Mohammed Sadiq, vice-president of the Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA), said the price of chicken meat has fallen by almost half.

Ambiguous government policy has been blamed for stoking public fears. Officials continue to encourage people to eat chicken while the meat has been banned from official menus.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), bird flu has killed at least 113 people worldwide, mostly in Asia, since 2003. Pakistan has yet to report any cases of bird flu in humans.