Blind poultry farmer urges more dialogue between gov’t, rearers

Stanleytown poultry farmer Leon Amsterdam credits his success in the poultry sector to his determination to provide for his family, despite his blindness, and posits that government needs to inquire from persons in the industry, its needs before deciding on interventions.

Leon Amsterdam, 55, switched full time to poultry farming in the 1990s after he became afflicted with glaucoma, which threatened to put an end to his dreams of obtaining a degree in economics from the University of Guyana. He had already completed his freshman year of studies and was poised to continue when he was forced to face the possibility that the disease would eventually lead to blindness. Urged on by his many sympathizers, he submitted to treatment from an eye specialist but over time, blindness stepped in. By 1977, Leon had little hope that he would have been able to pursue higher education and foremost in his mind was his ability to provide for his family. In his junior year economics class, his challenges with his sight became more acute and he sought refuge in a number of ‘desk’ jobs, including at an insurance agency. He was determined to remain independent for as long as possible and took an interest in operating the family business. Leon’s father Edgar once supplied the community with poultry and he decided to take up the challenge and invest in the industry. At the Amsterdam family home in New Amsterdam, 200 square feet of land was made available and Leon, his family and relatives embarked on a project and reared about 3000 layers.

The family inheritance of working in the poultry industry has its roots in Stanleytown/Canal No. 2 on the west bank of Demerara. Soon the Amsterdams extended their operations to the neighbouring Sisters Village where a Poultry Depot was established and a plucking and degutting service was provided for a nominal fee. Consumers were also readily able to obtain their supply of chicken at the Depot. The family had also attempted, on a small scale, to produce eggs on the farm for sale at the Depot.

The man also told this newspaper that the administration needs to consider seriously farmers’ opinions regarding matters affecting the industry. He also sees the need for government intervention when there is a poultry glut on the market and hinted at problems with the quality of feed. Leon recalled occasions where the birds would refuse to eat feed from a particular company; positing that the birds themselves were the best laboratory when it came to determining the quality of feed.

According to Leon, the fact remains that until a crisis occurs, the defaulting feed company never complains of a problem with the content of the feed, and on such occasions they would blame the late arrival of soya bean or other products.

He also said that compensation amounting to a few bags of feed from the 2005 and 2006 floods was hardly adequate considering the losses farmers suffered. Leon related a recent incident where a new food producer quoted a low price for the cost of poultry while the same product was quoted on the market at an elevated price. “Some people are involved in low tactics in this market,” he lamented, adding that some persons are prepared to undermine the market. On the other hand, he commended the increasing number of organic farms in the sector as persons often purchase manure from poultry farmers to cultivate their plots.

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