News - March 26, 2019

How to get rid of bird flu in Indonesia

Albert Sikkema

High Pathogenic Avian Influenza is endemic in Indonesia. PhD student Dikky Indrawan investigated why this bird flu is constantly present at the food markets. He found the ‘sick chicken chain’, directed by food traders.


Working in West Java, Indrawan examined why Indonesia doesn’t get rid of the highly pathogenic bird flu H5N1. The Indonesian government has policies to solve this problem, says Indrawan, but it won’t be successful as long as it doesn’t recognise the complexity of the Indonesian poultry sector. He found out that Indonesia has four value chains for poultry meat, each with different actors controlling the business. Two supply chains serve modern markets, which deliver 20 percent of the chicken meat; the other two traditional supply chains supply 80 percent of the chicken.

The most organised poultry chain is the integrator chain, in which big companies own the chicken farms, slaughterhouses, processing industry and retail. This chain has a lot of safety procedures to protect the business against disease. The other modern and highly coordinated poultry chain is the semi-automated slaughterhouse chain, in which the slaughterhouse/processing company has a contract with one or more retailers to deliver meat. This chain also invests in food safety to protect the investments. Most of the chicken meat from these chains is frozen.

The third supply chain is the controlled slaughter-point chain. This consists of state-owned farms that collect chickens from commercial farms and slaughter-points that slaughter only 10-100 birds per day. This supply chain uses medium to low safety procedures, says Indrawan. And the fourth and biggest one is the private slaughter-point chain, the most traditional and least coordinated chain in which small-scale farmers negotiate with traders, slaughter-points and consumers on spot markets without any requirements. ‘Only the price is important in this fresh meat market,’ says Indrawan.

Sick chicken
This traditional market also contains the ‘sick chicken market’, says Indrawan. ‘If poultry farmers see clinical signs of bird flu, they sell the chickens to this market.’ For many farmers, investing in medicines or vaccination is not profitable. It is more profitable for them to sell the sick chicken on the traditional market.’ Farmers from all supply chains, including the modern ones, use the traditional market as a drain for sick chicken.

Indrawan also examined who the main actors are in this ‘sick chicken market’. He found that the chicken traders are the most responsible party. ‘You have to realise that poultry farming in Indonesia is not bankable, so the traders support the poultry farmers and collecting farms with loans. These traders also control the delivery order system; they move the chickens to the markets with the highest margins. If a farmer has sick chickens, they know the slaughterhouse and market that will buy these chickens.’

So far, the Indonesian government hasn’t involved the poultry traders in the policies to eradicate bird flu. It is time they do, says Indrawan. ‘These traders are the informal coordinators of the business. You have to involve them, first by accepting them as formal bankers of the poultry sector. By doing so, the government can support or select the traders who agree to stop buying and selling sick chickens.’

The key thing, says Indrawan, is that the government has to give incentives to the market to stop trading sick chickens. ‘A few years ago the government tried to solve this problem by closing down the collecting farms and slaughter-point houses. It didn’t work, because they forgot the traders, and thousands of people depend on this supply chain. It would be  better not to remove them but to upgrade them.’

The poultry market is a very important food market in Indonesia, says Indrawan. 83% of the fresh meat in Indonesia comes from poultry, and Indonesian households spend nearly 10% of their budget on chicken.