Poultry Farms in Spanish Lookout suffer major loss after Avian Influenza Breakout
Thursday, May 7th, 2015
Poultry farms in the Spanish Lookout Community have suffered an estimated $3 million loss after the most recent breakout of Avian Influenza (H5N2). Over 60,000 birds were put down due to the contamination in the last couple of weeks to avoid the selling of infected product to the public. While the loss is very significant and represents a major setback in the farmers’ inventory, the Government of Belize (GOB) does not have plans for subsidizing them.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) in conjunction with the Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA), have been motoring the farms since Wednesday, January 14th when the Avian Influenza Type A tested positive in two farms. Since then, testing was required for all product before release for public consumption. The infected samples were initially only poultry from the broiler breeder section of the farm, but as the month progressed, chicken used for direct consumption also started showing signs of infection.
Chief Executive Officer of the MOA Jose Alpuche stated that after extensive testing, over 75,000 birds were positive for the virus in 12 farms across Spanish Lookout. “This is a huge loss, out of the birds that tested positive, 60,000 have been put down. This is a clear indication of a loss of $3 million dollars and there are still four more farms left to be purged. Much will need to be done in the coming months to build back inventory and stock in the poultry farms,” said Alpuche.
While it is still unclear if the loss will result in an increase in the price of poultry products, it has been indicated that farmers might have to import products to meet demand. “It has affected the industry severely. But in the last two weeks, it seems to have been slowing down as we do not have any new flocks turning out positive,” said Orlando Habet, representative of the Belize Poultry Association. “There is the potential for a loss of over $6 million if all the birds are depopulated in a six-week cycle. GOB has taken the initiative, along with the industry, that there will be no vaccination, at least up to now. The option that has been chosen is depopulation, so that those birds do not reach the market at all, neither do the eggs,” Habet continued.
Farmers are attempting to do their best to avoid importing poultry, but the potential shortfall is imminent. “We can see that there is a potential problem with supply, if we do not get the other producers in the north to speed up their protection, then Spanish Lookout will not be able to supply their customers, in the near future. There is the possibility of importation, but we are trying to move away from that idea as soon as possible,” said Habet.
As of press time, prices for poultry products remain the same, but Habet said a shift in supply can affect the price scale. “Up to now there hasn’t been a price change, but there is no way of telling. Wherever there has been this problem (Avian Influenza), they have tried to stop this increase of price but it is a matter of supply and demand. The market forces demands or dictates where the price point will be.”
The fact that GOB will not be subsidizing the farmers can also affect poultry product prices. “GOB does not have any plans on compensating the growers for their loss, therefore this can have an impact on the price of chicken in the months ahead,” said MOA’s Alpuche.
Until an all clear is issued at the poultry farms in Spanish Lookout, the MOA will continue to conduct routine testing of the birds in all farms of the area.
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