Agriculture dep’t says strict bird flu quarantine hurt poultry industry

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THE Department of Agriculture (DA) said it will relax its avian influenza quarantine rules, noting that the protocols it administered during the August outbreak pulled down the poultry industry.

“The cull within a one-kilometer radius and the seven-kilometer radius on restricted movement of birds had an adverse effect on the farmers in the affected areas,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters on Wednesday.

Earlier this month the DA eased transport restrictions by lifting the ban on movement within the seven-kilometer control zone.

Meanwhile, the industry may have to wait for two more months for the lifting of the one-kilometer quarantine zone and restore the market to pre-outbreak conditions.

Mr. Piñol said the DA will observe to its standard procedure of waiting 90 days in the case of avian influenza outbreaks before lifting all restrictions.

Mr. Piñol has said he now expects output of the poultry subsector, which rose in the second quarter, to contract in the third quarter as news of the outbreak discouraged consumers from purchasing poultry products.

The formal amendment of the avian influenza protocols is expected to be finalized after a workshop to be held also this month. 

The workshop will involve stakeholders and other agencies such as the Departments of Interior and Local Government, Health and Trade and Industry, among others.

“I will have to defer to decision of stakeholders and biosecurity experts hintayin resulta. My role is to be the impelementor of the biosecurity measures,” Mr. Piñol added.

The official said the agency is looking at European models, which call for the culling of birds only in the affected farm.

The South Korean practice of a 500-meter quarantine zone is also being studied.

The manual of procedures used by the Bureau of Animal Industry calls for a seven-kilometer zone from the periphery of the boundary of the Quarantine Area as a Control Area, “which may be extended as deemed necessary.”

Meanwhile, existing protocols also call for a one-kilometer quarantine radius from the affected farm, taking in major markets, processing plants and general service areas. — Janina C. Lim