Slight mutation to Avian Flu virus discovered in 13th fatality
CAIRO: Minister of Agriculture Amin Abaza said Saturday a joint government-private sector task force has developed a strategy to fight the spread of the Avian Flu virus and protect the poultry industry.
Abaza s comments followed Friday s announcement of the 13th Avian Flu-induced death, a 37-year-old woman from Fayoum.
Appearing with executives from poultry production companies at an Avian Flu conference, Abaza said the Ministry will develop a database to keep track of large and small producers and organize the implementation of safety standards. Other priorities include setting up an insurance fund to protect private poulterers incase their birds are found infected, and working with the Ministry of Finance (MOF) to encourage the establishment of abattoirs outside the city and banning live-bird trading.
According to the task force s report, the plan will cost an estimated LE 4 billion to be directed mostly toward building abattoirs to replace the current open-air slaughtering system.
On Friday, a Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) spokesman said the ministry plans to launch a trial program in March to compensate farmers with vaccinated poultry if their chickens are found infected. The program would replace the LE 170 million monetary compensation scheme of 2006 which was largely declared a failure due to corruption.
Late last month, members of the Poultry Division of the Cairo Chamber of Commerce announced plans to establish a LE 10 million capital abattoir operation company with facilities to be located in Al Nahda City Industrial Zone.
The company will operate 57 abattoirs to supply chilled and frozen chicken to distributors throughout Greater Cairo with construction of the facilities expected to cost about LE 100 million.
Abaza said the government will work to ensure a smooth transition from a private-unregulated industry to a more systematic, capital-intensive one, but has been unclear about those plans. Of the 1.7 million chickens produced daily, about one-third is carried out by private poulterers. MOA estimates the industry supports 3 million families with combined investments of nearly LE 8 billion.
MOA and MOF have announced they are working on drafting a law to eliminate the sale of live chickens by 2010 to be raised for discussion at the People s Assembly during its current round. Under the proposed legislation, MOF would enter as a partner with private poultry distributors to fund the establishment of MOA-monitored abattoirs. The facilities would then be used to produce chilled or frozen poultry, replacing the live chicken trade.
But analysts still fear the proposed shift to an automated poultry industry will be met with sharp public resistance as it is expected to put many out of work, especially in rural areas.
On the Avian Flu front, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported a slight mutation has been discovered in recent infections in Egypt, but it was not expected to pose a significant increase in the virus s danger.
WHO’s Regional Spokesman Ibrahim Al Kerdany said the mutation is estimated to have decreased the effectiveness of Tamiflu by 10 percent but the country still remains at a low risk for an epidemic. Since the virus first appeared in Egypt in February 2006, the government has confirmed 21 infections and 13 fatalities.