Agri dep’t. sees small impact from bird flu on farm output

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100611 Young, and all natural chicks available for everyone. Free range chicks are seen as provided by local poultry producers at the Agrilink expo in Manila.

THE GOVERNMENT expects the bird flu outbreak in Pampanga to have a small impact on agricultural output in the third quarter.

“I don’t think it will be that much, because we caught it early,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said in a phone interview over the weekend, noting that consumers may avoid purchasing poultry products for some time.

However, Mr. Piñol said he cannot yet quantify the drop in the value of farm production.

Presidential Spokesperson Ernesto C. Abella said in a statement: “We are closely watching the quality and the price of poultry products in the markets as the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced the culling of thousands of chicken in Pampanga.”

“We believe DA has acted fast on the issue and has managed to isolate and contain the virus.”

“Government agencies are now looking at businesses that might take advantage of the situation and are monitoring the price of raw and processed chicken meat in the markets,” he added.

“While we assure the public that there would be no price increase in chicken meat as there is only one area affected by the avian flu, we must see to it that uncontaminated meat is sold in the markets.”

For the three months ending September, Mr. Piñol earlier said he expects farm output to kick off to 6% — more than doubling the 2.98% growth in the same period in 2016.

The agency is expecting agricultural output growth of 6% to 7% this year.

Meanwhile, San Miguel Foods, Inc. (SMFI) assured consumers that its poultry farms remain avian influenza-free while the firm continues to coordinate with the Bureau of Animal Industry and other agencies to prevent the spread of the disease.

“We have implemented rigorous biosafety measures in all SMFI farms to avoid contamination from avian influenza. We continue to adhere to international food safety and health standards,” the company said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the United Broilers Raisers Association (UBRA) said the DA took quick action to contain the disease.

“We fully support the move of Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Piñol to decisively stamp out the virus and declare a quarantine area in the town of San Luis in Pampanga,” UBRA President Lawyer Elias Jose M. Inciong said in the statement over the weekend.

On Friday, the department ordered the culling of about 200,000 fowl in San Luis, Pampanga where cases of avian influenza subtype H5 have been confirmed after four tests.

The deaths of some 37,000 fowl had been reported.

As such, the DA established a 7-km control zone for surveillance and 12 quarantine checkpoints within a 1-km radius of the affected areas.

Avian influenza or bird flu is a disease capable of causing extremely high mortality — up to 100% — in domestic or wild birds.

Some variants of the flu can also be transferred to humans. — Janina C. Lim