Monday, January 23, 2017

Poultry traders count losses as #Uganda govt pleads - #BirdFlu #AvianFlu

East Africa is on high alert after an outbreak of bird flu was reported in Uganda.

Dealers in poultry products in Uganda are already counting their losses, forcing Kampala to begin diplomatic lobbying to persuade neighbours to reconsider import bans.

Traders were last week stranded with stock at border points after Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, DR Congo and South Sudan imposed import bans on poultry products from Uganda.

“We are in discussion with our colleagues in those countries so that they understand that the commercial poultry farmers have not been affected so that they can open up the markets,” said Anna Rose Ademun Okurut, assistant commissioner, veterinary diagnostics and epidemiology, at the Ministry of Agriculture.

The affected products are eggs, chicks, live chicken, turkey and ducks, dressed chicken and chicken sausages. Data from the Ministry of Agriculture shows that Uganda exported 32.6 tonnes of dressed chicken and turkey while three million eggs were exported in 2015. The data does not capture informal trade volumes.

“We have also put quarantine covering an area of 5km away from points of infection at Lutembe beach and at Bukakata in Masaka district,” Ms Okurut told The EastAfrican at her office in Entebbe near one of the places identified as a source of the wild avian flu outbreak. This means that no trade in poultry and its products from the affected areas is allowed.

Dead birds

On January 2, 2017, dead white-winged black tern birds were discovered at Lutembe beach on Lake Victoria was reported and preliminary tests preliminary revealed that they died from Avian Influenza A. However, confirmatory tests done at Uganda Virus Research Institute confirmed the H5 Serotype. The affected birds are migratory, coming in from Europe where cases of bird flu has been reported recently.

Although the virus occurs in the wild all the time while some birds host it without much harm, scientists believe extreme heat triggered the Uganda outbreak in birds already hosting the virus. “The virus exists freely in the wild all the time but some birds are resistant to it; still sometimes high temperatures stress the birds, leaving their immunity compromised,” said Dr Martin Kasirye, a field inspector at the Livestock Department in the Agriculture Ministry.

In Kenya, the ban on poultry and related products saw egg prices rise with the Cabinet Secretary for Agriculture Willy Bet warning the country would have to kill 32 million chicken in the farms should the disease spread.

“We remain at high risk and in most cases the proper response is to kill all birds, which means the disease can destroy the whole poultry industry,” Mr Bet said.

Mr Bett urged Kenyans to report any cases of unusual poultry and wild bird deaths to the nearest veterinary and public health office. He also asked Uganda not to issue any export permits for poultry and poultry products destined for Kenya.

READ: Kenya, Rwanda block chicken imports from Uganda after bird flu outbreak

“Precaution has to be taken because the disease is likely to spread if effective preventive measures are not put in place,” said Ummy Mwalimu, Tanzania Minister for Health, Community Development, Gender and Children.

Zenon Nsananikiye, officer in charge of EAC affairs at Burundi’s Ministry of Agriculture said the country was strengthening its programme on bird and animal health as well as boosting as the capacity of its quarantine centre in Cankuzo Province.

“So far, in Burundi, we haven’t received any case related to the disease. Normally, we don’t have animals imported from outside the country without a health certificate so that all animals are certified safe,” Mr Nsananikiye.

Impact on businesses

However, Uganda commercial poultry dealers estimate that they will lose up to $547,732 this month following the ban on exports. In a good month, dealers under their umbrella association — Uganda Poultry Farmers Association — earn between $1,095,460 and $1,917,060.

Kenya is a major importer of poultry products from Uganda. It imported at least 33.7 tonnes of poultry meat worth $70,000 from Uganda last year, and 120 tonnes of eggs worth $120,000, according to data from the Agriculture ministry.

Ugandan traders have defended the safety of their products and warn that the ban will have a trickledown effect on other businesses like poultry feed producers and manufacturers.

“We need the governments to enter into a protocol where they can do tests on farms to ensure that the products we export are clean. We are able to do these tests and get a quick resolution to this problem. In Europe, where outbreaks have been common, such tests have been done since 2005,” said Aga Sekalala, chairman of the Uganda Poultry Framers Association and executive director of Ugachick, a leading exporter.

The Ugandan government has established a National Animal Disease Diagnostic and Epidemiology Centre Committee, which comprises experts from the Livestock Department, Uganda Wildlife Authority, the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre, Ministry of Health, Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation.

The team is working jointly to stop further spread of the disease from the wild to domestic birds and to completely avoid any human infection, (which has not yet been reported).

Experts are sensitising the population on how to avoid catching bird flu, while UWA is picking up and burying all the dead birds. FAO is also procuring medical kits.

In Tanzania, the government has established a task force to ensure surveillance around the Tanzania-Uganda border and areas surrounding Lake Victoria.

Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said special teams from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries had been put in place to boost surveillance in border areas especially in Kagera and Mwanza.

Ugandan poultry traders count losses as govt pleads against bans

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