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Bird flu scare hits chicken sales




  • KARACHI: People are reluctant to purchase chicken over the last two days after the news that bird flu has hit neighbouring countries, especially India and Iran.

    Retailers in Saddar, Tariq Road, F.B. Area and other areas say that there is a slight decline in poultry sales owing to thin presence of consumers who now appear more concerned about reports that the virus has reached the neighbouring countries.

    One of the retailers in F.B. Area said that consumers’ presence had dropped by 20 per cent at his outlet. Retailers at the Empress Market said they had witnessed a 40-50 per cent reduction in consumers’ arrival at their shops.

    Some retailers are reported to be offering birds at Rs60 per kg and its meat at Rs100-105, while in some areas retailers are selling live bird at Rs55-58 per kg and its meat at Rs90-94.

    Stakeholders in the poultry business offer a mixed view on the daily sale of birds in the aftermath of bird flu cases in India and Iran. Mohammad Hussain Patel, Sindh-circle chairman of the Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA), said the sale of birds had been affected and declined amid fear in general public of outbreak of the virus. However, he said the real picture of daily sale situation would be clear in a day or two. According to him, 400,000-500,000 birds were being slaughtered daily in Karachi.

    Kamal Akhtar Siddiqui, general-secretary of the Karachi Wholesalers’ Poultry Association (KWPA), claimed: “There has been no decline in sales of poultry birds in the city.” He said around 350,000 birds are being slaughtered daily in Karachi.

    The KWPA and the PPA release new price of poultry products on every Thursday. Officials of the two associations did not reveal whether the price would decline or increase on Thursday.

    PPA central chairman Raza Mehmood Khursand told Dawn from Lahore that poultry sales had declined by 10-15 per cent in the last two or three days. “Sales have recovered by five to seven per cent on Wednesday after positive news that there is no bird flu virus in Pakistan,” he said, hoping that they would further recover in the next two or three days, as “the situation is now under control in all over the country”.

    He recalled that due to negative media propaganda in January-February 2004 about the spread of avian influenza in the country, the industry suffered a loss of Rs25 billion. At that time, poultry prices had dropped to Rs30-35 per kg.

    Around 25,000 poultry farms are operational in Pakistan involving an investment of Rs100-110 billion.

    He said the PPA executive committee in its emergent meeting in Lahore on Wednesday discussed the issue of bird flu virus in the neighbouring countries. Mr Khursand said the government had appointed/earmarked 12 laboratories at different places and these laboratories had facility to check and diagnose avian influenza. He said: “During the last five months, more than 25,000 samples of migratory and wildlife birds were examined at the laboratories and it was revealed that no H591 existed in these birds.”

    The PPA chairman asked the people to eat chicken and eggs without any fear of disease.

    According to the ministry of food, agriculture and livestock (Minfal), avian influenza had claimed more than 90 lives all over the world. Most of the countries around and bordering Pakistan, including India, Iran, China, Turkey, Russia, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and South East Asia, besides many countries of Europe are increasing the risk of introduction of the disease in Pakistan.

    Pakistan is situated in two flyways — Central Asia Flyway and East Africa-West Asia Flyway — thus the risk of migratory birds bringing infection is significant.

    Minfal has undertaken stocktaking of the preparation for bird flu from February 22 with all provinces, Azad Jammu Kashmir and northern areas and reviewed the preparedness position. All provincial livestock departments in collaboration with the wildlife department and health will increase intensity of surveillance for both clinical/disease occurrence and blood and faecal swabs.

    According to the ministry, the number of surveillance teams had been increased and all veterinarians of the country would be involved in clinical surveillance. The number of surveillance teams has been increased to 22 from 12 and rapid response teams have been enhanced to 24 from six to meet any untoward eventuality.

    Minfal has been constantly monitoring the avian influenza in the country for the last two years. Laboratory surveillance has so far contained more than 12,000 blood samples, 7,000 tissue samples and 9,000 cloacal swabs. “So far no bird flu strain H5 has been detected in Pakistan.”

    The ministry, after approving a project of Rs40 million for the control of avian influenza, has prepared another national plan costing $6.8 million. The government has already banned poultry imports from 22 countries, including India and Iran.

    Courtesy: The DAWN

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