News: Tomahawks, PRT chicken farmers team up for co-op
Story by Pfc. Adrian Muehe
DIYALA, Iraq — Hussein and Dr. Wejdi Alshammary are just two average brothers and businessmen making a living in Diyala province, Iraq. Their company, the Iraq Grand Parent Company, however, is not so average, as it is leading the way for the poultry industry in the province.
Almost a year ago they received their first shipment of day-old chicks from Arbor Acres, a poultry company in Alabama, to serve as the grandfather flock for all of Diyala province.
Since then, they have constructed a factory where they breed and sell chicks to poultry farmers, a feed mill, and a slaughter house in Khalis.
To meet the high demand, the entrepreneurial duo is building a new feed mill to expand their production capabilities, just north of Baqubah, the provincial capital of Diyala.
These brothers are also working with the Diyala Provincial Reconstruction Team and 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division, to create a chicken feed co-operative. From this partnership, the brothers received micro-grants of $5,000 and vouchers to give to 25 chicken farmers, who purchase chicks and feed from their company throughout Diyala province.
“The Alshammary brothers were selected for this project because they have a lot of experience running poultry operations,” said Mike Rothe, senior economic adviser to the Diyala PRT. “They are willing to invest significant amounts of their own capital for this project.”
Farmers involved with the co-op will receive micro-grants distributed by the brothers’ company, to buy feed, along with vouchers for additional 20 percent discounts from the company, giving them up to $5,000 worth of free chicken feed. This saves money while encouraging them to buy in bulk.
“Through this they [the farmers] will be able to get 14 metric tons of feed and a whole cycle of baby chickens,” said Hussein Alshammary.
According to Rothe, chicken feed in Iraq costs double what it does on the global market, and that creates a struggle for the nation’s poultry farmers. The heavy subsidies the poultry industry received under the Saddam regime ceased in 2003, causing farmers to struggle to thrive in a free market economy. The resources they are able to purchase are expensive due to middle-men handling the international shipments.
“The poultry industry in Diyala has faced big problems,” said Hussein. “With this step we are trying to encourage farmers, to put them back on the road to being leaders in the industry.”
The brothers’ company will also expand as a result of this. After construction of their new mill is complete they hope to maximize their production to 10 metric tons (10,000 kilograms) an hour. This will double their production and drastically lower the cost of feed for local farmers and open up a new market for them.
“This is a long range, multi-layered project,” said Lt. Col. Chuck Hodges, commander of 1/23 Inf. “This (micro-grant payout) just happens to be one spoke in the overall cog of re-engineering the poultry industry in Diyala.”
As the Soldiers of 1/23 Inf. prepare to sheath their tomahawks and head home, the PRT will continue to work with other U.S. Army units to keep the cog spinning for Diyala province poultry farmers.
“The next step is actually helping the individual farmers and the [poultry] associations either restart their operations or produce poultry more efficiently,” said Rothe. “We will be addressing the deficiencies of the farmers here.”
This will be accomplished by establishing training programs about bio-security, or ensuring chickens are well bred and healthy. This will be taught to the farmers and how to use their assets to maximize their full potential.
With the IGPC churning out feed, and continuing their lead for Diyala province chicken farmers, the industry will soon be on its own feet again. When chicken farmers will be able to thrive, people all over Iraq will be able to wake up to the call of a rooster as a new dawn breaks over the country.