At Hadi Marhento’s poultry farm in Teunom village on the west coast of Aceh province, two customers climb into the chicken shed and choose a pair of birds. The women look on slightly squeamishly as the chickens are quickly slaughtered, de-feathered and chopped up ready for cooking.
The 37-year-old poultry seller says he’s been busy in the past few days thanks to a local Muslim festival. He started the business after the tsunami, using the cash grant he received from the British Red Cross to buy chicks. He reared them for sale, but soon found it more profitable to buy older birds and offer a butchery service.
“I saw the market conditions were suitable – there are not so many people selling chickens yet – and so I carried on with this business using the capital I received from the Red Cross,” Hadi says. “Then I got another 4 million rupiah (£225), which I used to buy a machine for plucking chicken feathers. Since then, I have a good life.”
Making a profit
Usually he sells around 300 chickens and 100 ducks a month, producing an average profit of around 4 million rupiah. He employs a young lad to help him with the business and would like to expand it when he has enough capital.
Hadi also received a house from the British Red Cross because his old home was destroyed by the tsunami. As with most beneficiaries in the area, the Red Cross helped him secure an official land title. But Hadi is wary of following the example of some others who have used their property as collateral for a loan from the bank.
“It seems a bit like gambling,” says Hadi. “I am aware that I’d have to pay back money to the bank every month and that could be a problem if business doesn’t go well.”
Hadi’s income depends on the health of the chickens delivered from the wholesaler in Medan, the main city in neighbouring North Sumatra province. One of the risks is avian flu, which has been circulating among Indonesian poultry since early 2004.
The virus can be transmitted to people who come into contact with sick or dead birds. Up to July 2008, 111 people had died from infection in Indonesia, the highest death toll of any nation.
Thankfully Hadi’s business hasn’t been touched by the disease so far, but he’s not taking any chances. “The government told us we had to spray the premises otherwise they would cull the birds, so the vet comes once a week,” he explains. “I’m not too worried about bird flu because we haven’t seen it in Teunom village.”
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