Critical poultry shortage in Propuganda

by Kwashiorkor last modified 2013-04-04T03:47:32+00:00
Economic intervention and unintended consequences in Latin America.

The small Latin American nation of Propuganda is currently experiencing a critical shortage of chickens. President Miguel Eduardo Falderal has called on the nation’s leaders to help him develop “a comprehensive plan to ensure that no Propugandan be without a chicken in their pot, provided that they are capable of cooking it.”

Propuganda, a country that once was nearly overrun with wild chickens whose ancestors had escaped from Jesuit missionaries, now finds itself is such a severe shortage that some black-market hens are selling for over 30,000 Propesos, which is nearly $12.45 USD.

Local resident Paco Allende, who spoke under condition of anonymity, said, “I have not seen a chicken in the market for two weeks, and I think that was a dressed-up rat, or something. I think it is the president’s fault.  He is more concerned about his mistress – can you remove that last part?”

Problems began in the mid 90’s, when chicken ranchers started petitioning the government for price supports.  The market price of fryer hens had fallen to such a low level that the ranchers were losing money on every sale, even when they included a sack of corn meal with every order. Eggs were so cheap that they could not be transported without incurring a loss.

The government’s initial solution was to institute price floors for various poultry products.  While initially supported by the chicken ranchers, dissatisfaction grew as more people began to raise their own chickens or smuggle them from abroad.  “Why should I pay so much for something that I can get for 1/5 the cost?” was the common sentiment.

This was followed by a radical sterilization campaign to reduce chicken reproduction rates.  Fertile chickens were tagged and licensed by the state.  No farm was allowed to have more than a single fertile hen or rooster.  Government inspectors ensured compliance and confiscated any chicks found on farms. Violators were heavily fined.

As chicken prices began to recover, some ranchers found that they were having trouble obtaining sufficient stock. Some orders began to be left unfulfilled, and chickens soon became scare in the marketplace. Mystified residents began blaming Marxist rebels for the sudden disappearance of fowl.  Soldiers were dispatched to patrol streets at night and to calm the fears of the public.

Complaints over the rising prices of chickens caused the government to establish strict price controls. Anyone selling chickens or eggs for less more than the established market price could suffer confiscation, fines, and even imprisonment.  But shrinking supply drove ranchers’ costs higher, and a rationing system was instituted to ensure equitable distribution of poultry products. Customers, too, found themselves in long lines waiting to buy their allotted portion – now only ½ egg per week per person, in some districts.

Yet for the right price, one can obtain excellent white meat and large eggs, if one knows where to go.  In certain back-alleys, chickens dressed up as beavers or muskrats may be found, and golf has replaced soccer as the Propugandans’ national sport, if sales of packaged “golf balls” are to be believed. Secret night rendezvous are arranged by owners between fertile hens and cocks, out of sight of government inspectors.

The government is stepping up plans to control the black market and to ensure a steady supply of poultry products.  President Falderal has declared, “We will not allow the illicit trade [in poultry products] to continue.  These people are undermining the proper flow of goods and faith in the system. Such activities are directly playing into the hands of the Marxist rebels, who think that there should be no private ownership of chickens, yet don’t have a single egg among them.”

The government has recently started a new program to increase subsidies to some chicken ranchers, and to expand the number and size of state-run chicken coop co-ops.

Former president and opposition party leader Pablo Falderal, brother to the current president, said, “The president is wrong if he thinks that people will sit back while the rich eat omelets and fried chicken every day.  We must protect the poultry inspectors’ jobs and invest in more modern systems of raising chickens and getting them into people’s kitchens.”

Enrico Salvador, head chef at the San Mentos Hilton Hotel, said, “The whole system is broken. The government should never have gotten involved. Now they will keep going until there are no chickens in all of Propuganda. The only hope is if they drop all the fines and regulations, and let people raise whatever they want. If the government wants to help, let them drop all the taxes on people who want to start raising and selling chickens. Right now we are all in a massive investigation into which came first: poverty or stupidity?”