No announcement yet.

Guyana: ban on imported poultry and poultry products

  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Guyana: ban on imported poultry and poultry products

    Bird Flu is in the Caribbean

    The Government of Guyana has reacted quickly to news of an outbreak of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in the Dominican Republic. An announcement of a ban on the importation of poultry and poultry products has been made despite the fact that - as far as we are aware -the Dominican Republic is not a source of local chicken imports.

    In that sense the announcement of the ban reflects the psychological impact that attends the dreaded disease which has decimated poultry industries and severely damaged economies in several Asian (and other) countries including, notably, Vietnam.

    Some time ago the Ministry of Agriculture had disclosed that a multi agency committee had been set up to address the Bird Flu menace and that the efforts of the committee were being supported by wider regional initiatives and had also been benefiting from cooperation with Brazil. We also learnt that part of the responsibility of the committee - which includes representation from the Ministries of Agriculture and Health, large local poultry producers and PAHO - was to sensitize local poultry farmers to best practices in poultry rearing designed to reduce the risk of Guyana becoming affected by the disease.

    The Ministry of Agriculture has said in the past that one of the main challenges to its efforts to keep Bird Flu out of Guyana is the sheer size of the poultry industry in terms of the number of small producers who are spread over a wide area of the country. Apart from the larger, well-established poultry rearing operations, there are literally thousands of smaller operators in the small business sector and the Ministry has said in the past that since many of the smaller operations may not be pursuing those best practices necessary to minimize the likelihood of Bird Flu, there was indeed a window of vulnerability to the disease.

    Now that there has been a reported case of Bird Flu in the region the need to ensure that the poultry industry - including the thousands of small operations across the country - are adopting safer, more responsible rearing practices, has become more urgent and it is worth wondering whether the multi-agency committee has the resources and the reach to undertake this task.

    Significantly, Health Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy appears to be altogether aware of the likelihood that Guyana could become affected by Bird Flu and his recent comments on the issue focus on the country's capacity to contain the disease should it arise. We learnt that a recent Bird Flu simulation exercise conducted on the Soesdyke/ Linden Highway had revealed that while there were "a number of weaknesses" in the system efforts were being made to correct those weaknesses "in preparation for a real situation."

    The other challenge that surfaces in the fight to keep Bird Flu out of Guyana is that of ensuring that the government's import ban order is adhered to, since it is widely known that apart from those imports that arrive here through official ports of entry and which are subject to inspection and quarantine procedures, much of the goods imported into Guyana these days reache here across our land borders and are therefore not subject to those formal procedures. Indeed, despite the fact that the United States and Brazil are the two biggest sources of official chicken imports, it is unclear whether or not any poultry or poultry products from the Dominican Republic may ever have found their way in to Guyana.

    How to guard against illegal chicken imports, particularly in cases where there are shortages in local production, is another challenge facing Guyana with the arrival of Bird Flu in the region.

    Domestic birds, of course, are not the only source through which the disease can transcend borders. Migratory birds and pet imports can also trigger an outbreak of Bird Flu here. In this regard the movement of birds from interior to coastal areas - a phenomenon over which the authorities have no control, becomes a cause for concern.

    What makes Bird Flu concerns particularly worrying for Guyana are, first, the heavy consumer dependency on poultry meat as part of the staple diet and, secondly, the thousands of investments - ranging from multi million dollar poultry farms to subsistence operations - in the poultry industry. The need to protect the country from Bird Flu, therefore, has both food supply implications as well as implications for the livelihood of thousands of Guyanese and, by extension for the country's economy.

    It does no harm to remind those agencies responsible for seeking to stave off the arrival of Bird Flu in Guyana - and, if necessary, to respond effectively to the arrival of the disease - of the importance of their responsibility.