Poultry farmer bounces back after cyclone devastation

Hari Deo with wife Sunila Wati collects egg from their poultry farm in Taveuni. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

TROPICAL Cyclone Winston could not get Hari Deo down. In February 2016, he lost everything on his Delaivuna, Taveuni farm, including 1000 chicken.

But almost three years after that devastating natural disaster, Mr Deo has bounced back in leaps and bounds, doubling his yields within a span of just 21 months. With 2500 hens, he now supplies 75 per cent of Taveuni’s fresh one-day old eggs and hopes to have 10,000 layers by the end of 2019.

A Fiji Development Bank start-up loan and assistance from the agriculture ministry got him back on his feet. He is completing a farm shed assisted by the ministry at a cost of $40,000. “Now I produce 35 trays of fresh eggs per day but from next year I expect to get 100 trays of eggs daily.

The eggs are organic and the best on the island. We are doing home delivery.

“Because there is still a short supply of eggs on the island, I am working towards increasing the number of layers on the farm.”

Mr Deo lives with his wife on the poultry farm while his children live in Suva and to run the construction business he started many years ago.

Straight after living school the 58-year-old started off as a carpenter before moving into the lucrative construction business, where he climbed the ranks, branched out on his own and won contracts for projects with companies such as Pure Fiji, Government Pharmacy, FMF Foods Ltd, Blue Gas, among others.

After ending up on Taveuni and seeing that the island did not have a consistent and ample supply of fresh eggs, he ventured into poultry in 2010.

“Before, eggs were brought here by ships that travelled for 18-hours from Suva to Taveuni. Eggs shake violently in rough seas so when they landed their quality dropped considerably.

“Now there is no more shaking of eggs at sea. We produce eggs right here on the island.”

Looking back at his achievements so far, Mr Deo said business success depended largely on passion.

“To be on top your business should be close to your heart. It cannot be something that you copy. If you copy you won’t make it. Your job should be your hobby and should be something that you are passionate about.

“When I was schooling my hobby was to design buildings. But that time I didn’t know you could be an architect if you had design talents. I thought you can only be a carpenter. I worked in carpentry and construction companies where I stayed for many years. I became a foreman then a builder and finally went out on my own. I built many big buildings in Suva.

“I now have 2500 birds but by the end of 2019, I aim to have 10,000 layers, which will make me the biggest poultry farmer in the North.”

Despite challenges faced on the Garden Island, Mr Deo remains positive his track record in customer service and quality will help him achieve his target.

While he gets help from his handyman, Ledua, he manages his poultry enterprise single-handedly.

“I control my farm by myself unlike big companies where bosses find it a challenge to control workers.”

With thousands of layers, 300 meat birds, 500 ducks and eight sheep Mr Deo’s poultry farm is a busy and noisy workplace. To be on top of things, he has to be on watch all the time. His sleep is often disturbed by the sound of quacking, clucking and bleating.

“I hardly sleep. I always tell my wife we are here to raise chickens. Nobody asked us to care for them. We made that decision on our own so day or night we should rush to the shed as soon as we hear chicken clucking.”

 

 

The Deos are up at 5am. Soon afterwards, Mr Deo checks on the chickens’ drinking water and food. Eggs are collected twice daily.

Prior to TC Winston, the chicken shed was 200 metres downhill.

Now it is adjacent to the house, making Mr Deo’s birds accessible all the time.

“Chickens have a funny way of showing you they need something. They will shake the fence, they will make you run, if you don’t lock them properly they will break the gate, if you don’t fi x your water pipe properly they will break it too, and even if you are sick you will have to visit them.

“Every morning when you wake up you must be ready to find something wrong, either  one chicken has bitten another chicken or one chicken is lying down dead after a cat or rat bite. So any noisy clucking is a sign for you to see what’s wrong.”

 

Sunila Wati with eggs ready for delivery at the farm in Taveuni. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

 

 

Hari’s poultry farm. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

 

Hari Deo with Taveuni Agriculture officials at his farm in Taveuni. Picture: SOPHIE RALULU

 

Mr Deo said poultry business demanded a lot of patience, commitment and hard work.

“To be in this business, you should be strong and have patience. I lost everything after Winston but I persevered. Through hard work over the past two years my layers have doubled. By the end of 2019 and if everything goes according to plan I should have 10,000 layers.”

To remain in business, Mr Deo needs two tonnes of chicken feed per week which is equivalent to 12 bags per day.

“I must have stocked food for my chickens which costs $34 a bag. If there is a delay in supply, then business is affected.”

To supplement his earnings, Mr Deo recently ventured into rice farming. He also runs a small canteen from home.

He was this year’s winner of the Advanced Agriculture category in the FDB’s 2018 National Small and Medium Enterprises Awards.

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