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PDT in the News and a Chance to Buy Local

Remember this chicken farm? PDM-TL’s verification team took a trip out to Railako last month and now local news agencies like Tempo Semanal are following suit. Tempo Semanal featured an article in print and online form detailing the farm and advocated the importance of buying local products to improve Timor-Leste’s economy. To see the online edition, click here.  PDT even gets a mention.

For non Tetum speakers, you can read a translated version of the piece below.

Ermera Produces Eggs Locally but People Prefer to Buy from Abroad

Many people still think that in this country, everything needs to be imported from abroad. That includes chicken eggs usually sourced from Indonesia and Malaysia. In particular, the international community from UNMIT often states that local products are lacking in quality. Now, the community in Railako, a sub-district of Ermera, has started a local chicken farm that can produce more than 15,000 eggs a day. “We are really happy that now we can produce chicken eggs in-country and we urge all people of Timor-Leste to purchase theirs eggs here. By doing this, we can provide jobs for local people who work with us in order to strengthen our economy,” Octavia da Costa, the Operational Manager of Boborema Farm said.

If UNMIT and the international community bought fresh eggs from this farm, support would go to 24 families, contributing to poverty alleviation and employment creation for local laborers. However, if UN employees often talk about buying locally, there is still no action. “I call for consumers to buy eggs from here,” Ms. da Costa said.

To travel from Dili to the Boborema Farm, visitors need to pass two bridges near rice fields before entering Railako town. Immediately after the second bridge, they will need to turn left and follow the road for two kilometers before reaching the farm. They will still need to go through a river and up a hill to reach the site of the farm. Upon arrival, they will hear the happy singing of chickens,  as well as staff busy collecting and storing the chicken eggs, or feeding the chickens. “We are aware that if the chicken coops are located too close to the road, the noise can make the chickens stressed; therefore, the coops are more isolated so the chickens can avoid the effect of crowds, heavy traffic and many cars moving nearby, which can all cause illnesses among the flock.

Ermera now will not only be known for its coffee, but for its chicken eggs as well.

Not everybody might be aware that there is a company producing enough eggs to be consumed by many, many people, including the entire UNMIT staff, in this isolated area of Railako. The chicken eggs produced here are the same quality as those that come from Malaysia and Indonesia, as their “Day Old Chickens” (DOCs) were imported from Malaysia.

This site began raising chickens on the 8th of November last year, when the DOCs from Malaysia were imported. 24,700 freshly arrived chickens were raised in three coops. Now that the production of the eggs has begun, these chickens have moved to coops designed specifically for egg layers. “Of the first four batches, no chicken died. The fifth batch that came through Bali had approximately 200 chickens dead on arrival. Currently, 24,300 chickens are producing eggs.

The farm has already given support to the state in giving work to 24 people, including 13 women and 11 men. Some of the staff are able to sleep in their homes, while others stay overnight near the chicken coops. “The chickens that began laying eggs in March have only reached 64 percent capacity of production. While the chickens that first arrived are producing eggs at about 64 percent of their capacity, the latest batch is only producing at 15 percent per day.”

People call it “hen lay” when 99 percent of the chickens being raised produce an egg each day. There is a theory however that says a 95 percent production rate is much better.  During the starting days, there were only five or six hens which were laying eggs. After 26 weeks, the egg laying rate will reach 95 percent and only a small amount of chickens will remain eggless.

At the moment we are not yet able to sell our eggs in the markets, as we are worried that we will compete with those who sell eggs at higher prices. If we suddenly go there and sell eggs at cheaper prices than those in the markets, it can create problems. Therefore, we now only supply to our agents in Kuluhun, Garcia Shop.”

Though it has already been producing 15,000 eggs a day since March 2010, eggs from outside the country still dominate the markets. The government has not supported the rights of local producers. It should create a law banning products from outside markets that puts national products at risk.

Now the hens are producing 500 racks of 30 eggs each.”

The staff not spending the night at the farm needs to be ready to walk to the farm by six in the morning  to be able to feed all the chickens at seven.

Next to the manager’s office, a store room houses many white sacks that are not filled with MTCI rice, but with chicken feed. “With each new day, their food intake increases. Currently, they eat 2 tons, around 2,400 kilograms. Each chicken eats 95 grams of feed a day. But in the highest point of production, one hen will be able to consume up to 125 grams a day.”

The chicken coops are light and the buildings are quite unique. Seen from afar, they look almost as if they were a school or a hotel resort. They look like a Minang Kabau house, the Sumatra traditional house. “In other countries, coops like these are fully closed as they use only electric lighting, but here we only use electricity three hours during the night and let the sun shine in all day. Therefore, the coops should be a bit open and the roofing high enough so that fresh air can circulate to prevent the chickens from overheating.”

Oftentimes, private sector initiatives and local commodities can be threatened by outside products. In the international community, NGO Peace Dividend Trust supports the local private sector and encourages people and organizations to buy local products. Ironically, however, the UN Mission in Timor-Leste prefers to only import from abroad.

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