23rd June 2006, YANGON: On Friday Myanmar's government announced it's plans to help its battered poultry industry in it's recovery suffered by the outbreak of avian influenza earlier this year. Which the government now says is under control.
The state-run 'New Light of Myanmar' reported that the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries would supply new stocks of birds and poultry feed to the estimated 545 farms that were affected by the disease and the following culling programs to keep the disease under control.
The Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department declined to give more specific details on the plan, although it is understood that poultry feed will be sold to those affected at lower prices, while the Livestock and Fisheries Bank is likely to offer loans to farmers.
The FAO’s Yangon office said that poultry farmers may also be offered free land as part of the rehabilitation program, but the government could not confirm this.
The compensation package is said to have taken more than 3 months to be decided upon after the influenza outbreak hit 13 townships in Mandalay and Sagaing divisions in March, but still it has not been announced when the program will go into effect.
Figures published in today’s news report provided the first conclusive statistics on the toll since the outbreak was deemed officially over. It said 342,000 chickens and 320,000 quail were culled in the aftermath, with 180,000 eggs and 1.3 tons of poultry feed also destroyed. According to current market prices, this equates to a loss for the industry of 676.4 million kyat (US $512,448).
This does not, however, take into account the psychological damage done now that consumers have become fearful of poultry products or the lost opportunity for farmers to trade their produce from the beginning of the outbreak on March 8 up to the date the government said it had been contained, exactly a month later on April 8. During this period poultry could not be transported freely around the country, while neighboring countries, including Thailand, refused to import Burmese poultry products.
The free movement of poultry within Burma was largely resumed throughout the country on May 1. Many farms are reportedly still unable to function though, while the government maintains a ban on poultry farms within the metropolitan Mandalay area.
Meanwhile, the FAO today confirmed that there had not been any new cases of the disease, although it warned against complacency given Burma’s relative lack of preparedness.
The organization this month began a one-year long program funded by AusAID which aims to establish an improved awareness and detection of avian flu, a prompt reporting system and build up the capacity of diagnostic laboratories to the “minimum accepted level.”
“The laboratory facilities are…not good, we are striving to support these laboratories,” said Tang Zhengping, the FAO’s chief representative in Burma.
The country currently only has four labs that can test for bird flu, two of which are in Rangoon and Mandalay. Burma’s two largest cities are also the only places in the whole country with facilities to quarantine people in the event of a human outbreak. No such cases have been reported in Burma so far.
In addition to the FAO, Burma receives assistance to fight bird flu from other bodies including the World Health Organization, the Japan International Cooperation Agency and Thailand’s Department of Livestock Development.
Burmese health officials—along with representatives of 18 other countries—are also currently involved in a four-day workshop in Iowa in the US aimed at improving diagnostic testing of avian flu.