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Bird flu outbreak feared in Butuan duck farm
A man tends to ducks he is raising on the banks of Laguna de Bay in Taguig City on Aug. 18. EDD GUMBAN
MANILA, Philippines - More than a week after the bird flu outbreak in Pampanga, a small-scale duck raiser in Butuan City in Caraga region yesterday lost 20 ducks, sparking fears that the virus has spread to Agusan del Norte in Northern Mindanao.
Luzminda Enciso of Barangay Holy Redeemer in Butuan City said she found 20 of her ducks dead yesterday morning, but she is not sure if the cause is bird flu.
Enciso said she would seek help from the regional office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to determine what killed the ducks.
“I will be waiting until Tuesday to determine whether the cause of death of my ducks was really bird flu,” Enciso said.
Last Tuesday, the DA regional office said Caraga was still free of bird flu.
In just 10 days since the avian flu outbreak in Pampanga was announced, the local poultry industry has lost P1.8 billion and may not recover anytime soon as the virus has spread to Nueva Ecija, prompting the DA to again delay the lifting of a shipment ban nationwide.
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The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) estimates that the industry is losing P179 million daily following the DA’s order banning shipments of poultry and its byproducts from Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the virus.
“In a small-scale farm with about 10,000 heads, our assessment is that every farmer would lose about P500,000 per cycle. And that is just a small-scale farm, what more with the bigger ones,” Sinag chairman Rosendo So said in an interview.
According to Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, a total of 214,506 chickens, ducks, and quail in 29 farms in Pampanga were culled last week. The Philippine Army said soldiers helped DA depopulate the poultry farms.
The culling in Pampanga ended on Saturday and disinfecting the affected farms has started for the next 21 days.
Meanwhile, depopulation of at least 9,000 quail and 11,300 layer chickens in the towns of Jaen and San Isidro in Nueva Ecija started yesterday.
The Department of Science and Technology is coordinating with the DA to provide the agriculture department scientific expertise and resources to eradicate bird flu in the country.
The DA does not also allow the transport of poultry outside Luzon. Because of new incidents of bird flu, Piñol said the early lifting of the ban on the shipment of poultry products from Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao may be delayed.
Piñol on Thursday said farmers may resume shipment operations around the second week of September after all processes have been completed.
But Sinag has slammed Piñol, saying his pronouncements have been too premature and decisions being made are overboard.
“They could have handled it discreetly. It caused panic when it should not have. It could have been handled properly. If only he talked and consulted the industry, it could have been different. It should have been solved by the industry and the government, side by side,” So said.
“The other towns in Nueva Ecija are being affected already. Then we’ve been hearing about possible importation, it’s a double kill to the industry. Instead of helping the local producers, the situation may worsen with the entry of imports.
“And where will we import? Other countries where we source our imports have worse cases of bird flu than us,” he added.
‘Reduce chicken retail price’
Sinag is also calling on the DA and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to reduce retail prices as farm gate prices have reached their lowest levels.
Sinag said chicken meat prices should be lowered to P70 per kilogram because farm gate prices have dropped to P30 per kilogram, which is way below the cost of production.
“Producers have been losing so much and lowering the prices will somehow benefit the retailers and consumers. At least consumers will benefit despite the crisis that the industry is facing,” So told The STAR.
Farm gate prices have dropped to P30 per kg from P60 to P70 per kg last week when the outbreak was announced.
This means that prices in wet markets should have ranged from P80 to P90 per kg only, but chicken meat prices remain above the P100 level.
“Even with the P70 per kg, sellers will have their profits already. And yet prices are still from P110 to P135 per kg which only means that some are still taking advantage while we are in a middle of a crisis,” So lamented.
“The basis of retail prices is the farm gate price and not on the profiteering. Lowering the price will also help allay the fears of consumers and that it is really safe to eat chicken meat,” he added.
Volume of sales of poultry products in Central Luzon also continues to decline by about 80 percent due to the bird flu scare.
Reports in the Visayas and Mindanao also showed that prices have dropped due to the shipment ban of poultry and poultry products from Luzon to Visayas and Mindanao.
Data showed that production volume nationwide is at 1.6 billion kg of chicken and 461 million kg of eggs, where half of both products are coming from Luzon. – Louise Maureen Simeon, Ric Sapnu, Michael Punongbayan, Rainier Allan Ronda