… disease outbreak suspected, Agri Minister unaware of situationBy Andrew CarmichaelThere could be a possible poultry disease outbreak in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne), as some 800Some of the dead birds in the penbirds have reportedly died at a poultry farm in the ancient county.The deaths of the birds have prompted Regional Chairman David Armogan to call on the Agriculture Ministry to investigate the mysterious disease, which has so far claimed the lives of hundreds of chickens at a farm on the East Bank of Berbice.More than 800 birds died over the past week at the chicken farm, and to date, the Agriculture Ministry is slow to respond to the situation. This falls on the heels of a similar incident where a farmer at Linden, Region 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) reported that 300 birds also died from a mysterious disease at the Linden farm.Dead bird in BerbiceThe farmer stated that this could be an outbreak which could cripple the countries poultry industry. According to farmer, the birds started dying on June 19 when he discovered that more than 200 had passed overnight and a similar amount seemed to be affected.The Ministry was contacted and extension officers visited the farm and took samples from some of the dead birds. They also took away birds which seemed to also be affected and others that appeared to be healthy.“Sunday morning when I get in there, one of the guys mentioned that these birds looking as if they sleepy. I picked about 30 birds dead. So we say we would look at the pen on Monday and when I go back about 100 birds were dead. So I called a vet and two of them came and they took nine birds; two that seemed healthy to them, a few that seemed sick and some that were dead,” the farmer said.According him, the group of birds was examined and samples were taken by the officers. He said he was advised to burn the dead birds as opposed to burying them.As the week went on, more birds died and the farmer waited on a response from the extension workers who are attached to the Agriculture Ministry.On Monday, he said the death toll had passed 800. Hamilton took samples of water from the pen to get them tested at a private laboratory.“The lab mentioned that they are not doing water sampling so he took it to UG [University of Guyana] and at UG they say that they are not doing test. So then we went to the forensic lab and they say that they are only doing tissue tests. So I told my brother to go to the Ministry of Agriculture in Georgetown and meet the Minister. When he go there, the Minister of Agriculture is in a meeting so he take it to the PS [Permanent Secretary]. The PS told him that they don’t have the equipment to do testing. He offer to leave it there so that they can take it wherever they have to take it even if it is out of the country to get tested but the Permanent Secretary say that if it is left there, it will be discarded because no one will pick it up to ensure that it gets tested,” the frustrated farmer explained, while noting that the samples had to be returned to Berbice on Monday afternoon.On Monday, the matter was brought to the attention of Regional Chairman David Armogan who said the Agriculture Ministry needs to act before the entire region is affected.“I think this matter should be investigated promptly knowing that it could be the outbreak of a disease and it needs to be contained if it is.”However, the farmer said he had already lost millions of dollars and has been refusing to sell live birds to customers over the past week.He is calling on the Head of State to ensure that the issue is addressed.“The President is saying that every village should become a hub. It means that we should invest the little money we have. Now we invest a few million dollars into chickens… We do everything on our farm, we even have foot wash basins before you go into the pen; you step into disinfectant water and then you can go into the pen. I don’t know if the weather has brought on a strain of bacteria that we don’t know of,” he said.Armogan is blaming the agriculture extension workers, who he said, are not very prompt to act whenever farmers experience difficulty and need their help.“Even in the Black Bush Polder area where farmers have been having problems with their animals and they have not been attending to these things in a prompt way.”Meanwhile, when contacted on Tuesday, Agriculture Minister Noel Holder, who had just left a Cabinet meeting, told Guyana Times that he was unaware of any such report.