Since the influx of the migratory birds in the warm
waters of this part of the world, especially in the province of Sindh is
about to begin, the poultry industry is once again going to confront
with the virus of bird flu in next three months.
An early warning system about the virus has been
introduced by the National Institute of Health (NIH) to monitor human
epidemics, as a safeguard measures.
The Federal Minister for Health has appreciated the
initiative taken by the NIH to assist the poultry sector. He expressed
his desire that the institute should lead the way in research and
technical expertise. The minister further said the condition of most of
the poultry farms was far from satisfactory and needs improvement.
"Poultry farms must adopt new technologies to
keep pace with modern advancements," he said. He urged the sector
and the authorities concerned to ensure proper vaccination of the
poultry birds. He said the system had to be adopted by every poultry
farm in view of its benefits and cost-effectiveness. "Establishing
the system at a poultry farm would cost just under Rs 100". The
minister also emphasized the need to improve the quality of poultry
feed, which must be free of contamination and must not contain steroids
or unnatural ingredients.
While making special mention of researchers and
scientists, he said he wanted to recognize the technical excellence of
the scientists and experts who guided both the ministries of Health and
Agriculture in providing the public factually correct and technically
sound information during the recent avian flu crisis. He urged
scientists to work hard for the benefit of the common man.
Here in Karachi the authorities said that they were
preparing for a repeat of the bird flu that led to millions of poultry
being culled last year, as the pre-winter migratory season gets
underway. "It is difficult to forestall the flu outbreak as
migrating birds during the upcoming winter pose high risk to the
Pakistani birds," said Raja Rafaqat Hussain, the commissioner for
the Ministry of Food and Agriculture. He said, "Every chance is
there and the poultry industry is at risk."
Syed Ali Hasnain, a Karachi-based researcher working
with the World Wildlife Fund, said about 5.5 million birds migrate from
the colder regions of Central Asia to Pakistan every year to avoid a
harsh winter. They generally stay in southern Pakistan and adjacent
parts of India until January.
"Although experts believe the birds coming from
Central Asia do not currently have any strains of the avian flu, the
fear is they will pick it up from species that already have the disease
and spread it."
Mohammad Afzal, an animal sciences doctor with the
state-run Pakistan Agriculture Research Council, said H-7 and H-9
strains of avian influenza were already found in Pakistan and could
easily be spread by the migrating birds. "The H-7 and H-9 is
circulating currently in Mansehra and Abbotabad," Afzal said.
"The chances of it spreading will increase more during the
migratory season," he said. The H-7 and H-9 strains are less
damaging variations of the H-5N1 strain that has wreaked havoc in
Southeast Asia, particularly Thailand and Vietnam, killing more than 20
Pakistan's poultry industry has suffered a loss of
Rs5.4 billion due to avian influenza that spread in November-December
2003 in and around Karachi's poultry farms. This was revealed by the
State Bank of Pakistan in its second quarterly report for 2003-04 on the
basis of claim by the Pakistan Poultry Association (PPA). This loss when
adjusted in the value-addition shows a decline of 1.3 per cent in the
growth of livestock sub-sector. The situation dampened the chances of
achieving the target growth of the livestock sub-sector, while other
contributors to the livestock sub-sector exceed the targeted growth by
90 per cent. The sale price of almost all poultry products in the
wholesale market during January-February 2004 remained far less than the
cost of production for many poultry farmers. This has led to concerns of
a shortage of poultry products in future, raising the prospects of a
sharp spike in poultry product prices when the concerns over the bird
flu subside, the SBP report further said.
Avian influenza has badly affected the poultry
industry in several Asian countries, including South Korean, Japan,
Vietnam, Taiwan, Cambodia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Thailand and China, the
report added. Nonetheless, even reports on the health risks faced by
other countries have severely hit Pakistan's poultry industry.
The virus, the report said, could not affect Punjab
(accounting for 73 per cent of total poultry business) and the Frontier
province, but even these were impacted by the countrywide fall in demand
for chicken products. At one stage, the retail prices reached a ten-year
low. In Pakistan there are around 300 million chicken birds and more
than 20,000 farms with Rs60-70 billion investment in the poultry sector,
the report said.