Vietnam has been hit especially hard, with cases reported in 36 communes in 12 provinces across the country this January and February. The government’s department of animal health said nearly 60,000 domestic birds have been culled.
Diep Kinh Tan, vice minister of agriculture and rural development, said a map of the virus route will be completed by 1 March and vaccines will be delivered to those areas. Local government agencies have been told to stay on high alert and monitor the weather. The government has warned that the H5N1 virus flourishes in cool temperatures and high humidity.
The continuing outbreaks have greatly affected exports. The unsanitary conditions of small-scale poultry farms has meant there is “little to no demand for Vietnamese poultry among countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations”, according to one official, who did not want to be named. Most Vietnamese poultry is raised by farmers and slaughtered in backyard and local small-scale slaughterhouses. Around 95% of the population buy from these sources, while the remainder consume imported poultry.
Major concern in India
Meanwhile, the beleaguered poultry sector in India has had no respite, as at least five incidents of bird flu have been reported this year so far. Despite the fact that India declared itself bird flu-free on 29 December 2011, the north-eastern states of Tripura and Meghalaya reported outbreaks in January, followed by incidents in the eastern states of Orissa, Bihar and Jharkhand. Although veterinary authorities acted swiftly, culling the birds within a 3km radius of outbreak epicentres, the confidence of international poultry buyers has been knocked.
Dr A K Rajput, deputy general manager of Suguna Poultry, told GlobalMeatNews: “The poultry sector was growing at a healthy 8% to 10% per annum, but now it has become static. We have lost our momentum to the bird flu. It is a major concern for the poultry sector.”
India’s poultry exports were worth $91.76m in 2008-09. In 2009-2010 their value dropped to $78.48m. In 2010-2011 it was only $66.11m, down 15.76% compared to previous years, said India’s ministry of commerce and industry.
However, Dr Gaya Prasad, assistant director general (animal health), of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, dismissed the fear as unfounded. “As per [the] OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health) norms, a vast country like India is compartmentalised into different zones. These isolated incidents in remote parts of the country have no bearing on hubs of the poultry growers, such as Namakkal in Tamil Nadu,” he told GlobalMeatNews.