Farm chief says bout with bird flu ‘over’

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THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) has eased restrictions on the transport of poultry from bird flu-infected areas in Central Luzon, declaring the emergency “officially over.”

poultry“The biggest crisis, thus far, to hit the agriculture sector under the administration of President (Rodrigo R.) Rody Duterte — the avian influenza outbreak in three towns in Central Luzon — is now officially over,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a Facebook post late last Saturday.

The virus concerned, reported to be of the H5N6 strain that can infect humans, was a first for the Philippines. Checks on suspected human transmission turned out negative.

Mr. Piñol said he signed a memorandum circular on Aug. 31, following the recommendations of biosecurity experts, to lift quarantine restrictions in a 7-kilometer radius around the town of San Luis, Pampanga, as well as in Jaen and San Isidro towns in Nueva Ecija.

“This means that poultry and poultry products from these areas could now be transported to other destinations or markets,” Mr. Piñol explained.

Quarantine restrictions, however, remain in effect within 1 km around the affected towns.

Raisers will be allowed to resume raising chicken, ducks and quails 90 days from the official conclusion of disinfection of the affected areas.

Mr. Piñol said damage to the industry could still not be quantified, although over 600,000 birds were culled.

University of Asia and the Pacific economist Rolando T. Dy says an incubation period is usually observed before quarantine is lifted. “It has not spread beyond the radius. Buti na lang layers, not broilers… mas delikado pag broilers (It’s good only layers, and not broilers, were infected. It would have been worse if broilers were the ones infected),” Mr. Dy said.

Although the outbreak was officially reported early last month, there were local reports on massive poultry deaths as early as April.

A farmers’ group lauded the department’s move to relax the transport ban, saying the move will encourage normalization of business.

“We commend the DA for finally lifting the 7km control area. This would help further create stability and normalcy of situation,” Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura, Inc. President Rosendo O. So said in a mobile phone message over the weekend.

“Crucial to the industry is regaining consumer confidence sa poultry. ‘Yung pag lift would help create the condition to regain consumer confidence.”

Poultry farmers, the group said, had been suffering from nearly give-away farmgate prices of P26-40 per kilogram (/kg), compared to last semester’s averages of P91.85/kg for chicken, P89.06/kg for ducks, P104.91/kg for chicken eggs and P96.61/kg for duck eggs. — Janina C. Lim

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