Poultry prices drop, meat, fish prices rise [Archives:2005/898/Business & Economy]

November 28 2005

Mahyoub Al-Kamaly
Yemeni poultry markets have lately seen a big drop in prices against red meat and fish. This happened following the big media campaign on the spread of birdflu virus in some European, Asian and Arab countries.

Several merchents and businessmen working in this industry have made it clear to the Yemen Times that local consumption of poultry has dropped by 40% during this month. They attributed this drop to the common fears of the birdflu disease. Last month the drop in poultry consumption in Yemen registered only 20%. And while this drop doubled consumption of fish and red meat increased.

Last week a government environmental working group from the public authority of animal wealth visiting the Qabita district of Lahj governorate had warned against eating chicken and bird meat. The specialists requested the inhabitants to examin chicken and migrating birds in the villages and report any infected birds. The team had taken samples of infected birds' lungs, and blood was to taken to be examined. Bodyparts of the suspected birds were burned. However, the real cause behind the diseased birds was not yet declared by the team. The samples were dispatched to laboratories in Sana'a for diagnosis as a precautionary measure to see whether the birds were actually infected with birdflu or was it another disease.

In the district of Al-Hashaa of Dhalie governorate, locals mentioned that unidentified disease caused the death of tens of chicken in some of the neighboring villages during the past ten days. They said that this was anpreceded phenomenon and the symptoms were new to the local people. Apparently the diseased chicken made loud noises as they jumped around as if in pain just before dropping dead. They expressed their concern regarding the delay in discovering he cause and type of infection, especially that dogs which have eaten the infected chicken have died too. In the district of Ans in Thamar governorate residents of some villages reported to the agriculture and health office in the governorate about the sudden perishing of 50 chickens, causing panic among the people for fear they were infected with birdflu. Director of the health office there said samples of perished chicken were sent to the central laboratory in Sana'a to be examined if the cause was infection of birdflu. He added that his office on Saturday 19 November had received report on death of large number of chicken in the district of Jabal al-Sharq more than the number reported in Ans district.

The agriculture and health officials also received reports on death of chicken in various numbers in some villages and districts of other Yemeni governorates, such as Ibb and Radafan district of Lahj. No specific cause as to why the chicken are dying in those areas is given yet. Locals are begining to wonder if the government was serious at all in handling the issue. Residents from the district of Bani al-Harith told Yemen Times they had seen a number of bags full of perished chicken in farms nearby the area of Thahban, asking the concerned parties to follow up the case to diagnose causes of their death.

On the other hand businesspeople mentioned that reduction of demand for poultry had led to big drop in the prices in the Yemeni markets. The average price of a chicken is presently around 300 riyals whereas it price in Ramadan was between 400 to 450 riyals. Simultanously prices of animal meat registered a noticeable rise while fish prices registered a rise by 50%. Concerned officials at the Ministry of Health confirmed that the government is continuously taking precautionary measures expecting an emergency related to the birdflu. A substantial quantity of plasma and drugs dedicated to treating this disease as well as relevant disgnosis equipment are on their way to Yemen.

Latest statistics prior to the drop in consumption of poultry indicate that this revenues from industry amounted to 150 millions annually. This includes selling of local breeded as well as imported chicken.

Meanwhile, deputy minister of agriculture and irrigation Eng. Abdulmalik Ahmed al-Arashi, chairman of the operation room on the follow-up of the birdflu confirmed that Yemen is free from birdflu disease and primary results affirm that the measures taken in this regard prove to be of avail. He added that there were cases of local chicken deaths in a number of areas caused by the Newcastle disease and has nothing to do with birdflu disease.

The ministry of agriculture says that confirmation has come as a result of field teams reports written by specialists at the public authority of animal wealth entrusted with visiting a number of governorates. Their reports are based on checking samples they had brought from all governorates of Yemen. The establishment of an operation room on the birdflu came as part of the precautionary measures the ministry of agriculture is taking to guarantee that Yemen is free from that epedmic.