Few days to Christmas; But poultry sector sweats under ban of poultry

It is barely a month to Christmas, yet the ban on the movement of poultry in some part of the county is still in force.

The Christmas festivity, which is synonymous with an increase in consumption of poultry in the world, might this year exclude Ghana in the celebration, following the outbreak of the Avian influenza (bird flu) epidemic.

Due to this development, consumers in the country are presently shying away from chicken product, be it imported frozen ones or local live birds.

Bird flu is a deadly strain of a virus that attacks poultry and kills them after a short period. The deadly H5N1 bird flu can kill humans too and has killed people worldwide, particularly in Asia and the Middle East, since 2003.

Both the importers of chicken meat and local poultry farmers are expected to produce poultry of 60 and 40 per cent respectively to meet a national deficit of over 126,610 metric tonnes.

However, anecdote evidence available indicate that the importers were in the process of meeting their target while the indigenous farmers are drugging their feet behind, following the internal movement control mechanisms adopted by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) to curb the spread of the disease.

Although Christmas festivity, where the sale of poultry product peak is fast approaching, the ban on the movement of poultry is still in place, this has aggravated some poultry farmers in the country to accuse officials from both MoFA and the Veterinary Services Department of given importers an edge over the local farmers.

Conclusion

This is not the first time bird flu is giving health and veterinary authorities a headache in Ghana.

Ever since the last incidence in May this year, the disease had not been recorded in any part of the country. The government has, therefore, paid over GH¢1 million compensation to 25 poultry farmers whose farms were destroyed as a result of the outbreak of bird flu without lifting of the ban.

Touching on the issue, the former Chairman of the Ghana National Poultry Farmers Association (GNPFA), Mr Kwadwo Asante, raised concerns about the reportage of the disease.

According to him, any time the industry gather momentum to increase its capacity to meet the deficit in the sector the disease would be recorded to ruin the progress made.

Mr Asante smells foul play within the industry but was unable to pinpoint on specifics in the sector.

Declare Ghana free from bird flu

Players in the poultry industry have been dissatisfied about the development in the sector and have called on the government to declare Ghana free from bird flu epidemic because the disease was no more in the country.

According to them, the last time the disease was recorded in the country was about six months ago; hence, the call to lift the ban.

The farmers, who spoke to the Graphic Business on condition of anonymity, said the internal movement control mechanisms if not lifted would have a negative impact on the fortunes of the farmers during the festive season.

They said sales had slumped to about 75 per cent ever since the disease was recorded and disseminated over the media, adding that even though they were hoping for the best, they do not know what to expect in Christmas.

When the paper contacted the Chairman of the Ghana National Poultry Farmers Association (GNPFA), Mr Victor Opong Adjei, he said Ghana was free from the bird flu at the moment but the association was waiting for the MoFA to announce to the entire country.

“Since we do not have the virus in the country any more, the association is hoping the government lifts the ban very soon,” he said.

Responding to the restriction on the movement of birds in the country, he said presently there was no ban and that the directive applied only to the Greater Accra Region.

Moving forward, he said the association expected the sales of poultry birds to increase before Christmas, even though the trend of the market was still down.

Boost for local production

Meanwhile, the Minister of Finance, Mr Seth Terkper, in the 2016 Budget statement, said in 2016, as part of the government’s effort to boost local production of poultry, commercial poultry (broiler) farmers would be supported with subsidised inputs which include maize, vaccines and drugs to produce 45,000 metric tonnes of poultry, adding that about 1,500 farmers in five regions would be supported with 30,000 brooded cockerels.

It is anticipated that these interventions will reduce the nation’s meat deficit, which is currently 126,610 metric tonnes, by 35.5 per cent.

The Veterinary Services Department first banned the importation of poultry and poultry products from Burkina Faso in April this year as a counter measure against the outbreak of bird flu in the country.

The Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR), in May this year, confirmed the outbreak of bird flu. Five out of six sample tests conducted by the institute proved positive for the bird flu virus.

According to the institute, the samples were received from two farms located at Achimota and Tema on May 15, 2015.

At that time, the institute said the virus was from bird-to-bird, adding, however, that it was yet to conduct tests on the handlers of those birds to confirm whether or not the virus had been transferred from birds to humans.

On June 9, MoFA confirmed that some birds in the Greater Accra Region had been infected by bird flu.

According to the ministry, the test results of samples of reported Avian flu cases taken to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Laboratory in Padova, Italy, proved positive.

On July 2, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, Mr Gabriel Essilfie, and a Deputy Minister of Food and Agriculture, Dr Hannah Bissiw, appealed to Parliament to intervene in the fight against bird flu, as the MoFA lacked funds to fight the disease.

Conclusion

This is not the first time bird flu is giving health and veterinary authorities a headache in Ghana.

Ever since the last incidence in May this year, the disease had not been recorded in any part of the country. The government has, therefore, paid over GH¢1 million compensation to 25 poultry farmers whose farms were destroyed as a result of the outbreak of bird flu without lifting of the ban.

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