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Call to find poultry alternatives

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    Call to find poultry alternatives

    Published: Saturday | January 24, 2009

    Claudia Gardner, Gleaner Writer

    WESTERN BUREAU: United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative for Jamaica, Dr Dunstan Campbell, says the country should seek alternative sources of protein to cement its food security, as bird flu could still pose a threat.

    "We (FAO) would like to support the small stock, sheep, goats, rabbits and pigs, because I know most people have forgotten avian influenza," Campbell said. "But avian influenza is still a threat out there, and if it comes into Jamaica - and I hope it never does - it would put out the country's main source of protein, which is chicken, and, therefore, you would need an alternative source of protein for food security," Campbell said.

    major source of income

    In a 2006 release titled 'Helping Prevent Avian Influenza in Latin America and the Caribbean', the FAO said bird flu accounted for more than 70 per cent of animal protein consumption in the Caribbean and Latin America and was a major source of income and employment and an important contributor to rural and peri-urban development. Experts suggest that the epidemic would have huge repercussions on the livestock subsector.

    The FAO also noted that hundreds of millions of dollars had been mobilised internationally to aid in controlling the disease, mainly due to concerns about its potential to "unleash a global pandemic of human influenza".

    "The most recent and most severe of outbreaks began in Southeast Asia in late 2003. Never before in the history of this disease have so many countries been affected.

    "The disease and attempts to halt its spread have resulted in the death or destruction of an estimated 250 million birds. The H5N1 virus is now considered endemic in many parts of Indonesia and in some parts of China, Egypt and Nigeria. Establishing control of this disease in poultry is expected to take several years," the FAO said.

    lessons from the Far East

    The Inter-American Development Bank, in a study commissioned in 2007, titled 'Potential Economic Impact of Avian Influenza on the Latin American and Caribbean Poultry Sector', said the Caribbean could learn from the experiences of the countries in the Far East with the disease.