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COTE D'IVOIRE: Ivorians feel economic impact of avian flu

ABIDJAN, 28 February 2007 (IRIN) - Although only two outbreaks of avian influenza among poultry have been reported in Côte d’Ivoire, and no human deaths, the illness has taken a significant financial and humanitarian toll.

The H5N1 virus has resulted in a loss of more US$20 million to traditional and industrial poultry producers as demand has dropped, according to a recent study on the impact of avian influenza on the country’s economy.

Poultry processing plants have suffered the biggest losses, said the study requested by the government’s Commission for the Fight Against Avian Influenza. A two-day workshop in Abidjan last week examined the impact of avian flu and discussed ways to offset losses, including compensation, to the country’s poultry industry.

“Each hatchery has lost on average nearly US$7 million each month since the discovery of the two cases of the H5N1 virus in 2006 in the country,” the study said. The first case of avian flu was reported last April in Côte d’Ivoire and a mass culling of poultry followed.

Isac Kouamé Adi, director general of Coco Service, which specialises in the production of fresh eggs, said his company has suffered the consequences of avian flu.

“We have seen a drop in consumption,” he said. “But I think that consumers should not worry. We have taken all sanitary precautions to assure safe consumption.”

The government report said poultry importers had lost some $4.5 million while the producers of poultry products were down about $4.2 million dollars. Egg wholesalers individually lost on average $156,000.

The consumption of poultry and poultry products has dropped by about 51 percent, according to the report.

“Today it’s risky to eat chicken,” said student Olivier Kacou. “Personally, I decided with some friends to no longer eat poultry since the appearance of the H5N1 virus. I think that other hygiene measures should be taken to truly offer reassurance.”

Because of the drop in demand for poultry and poultry products, 450 farm laborers have lost their jobs and another 15,000 risk being out of work.

“Today, 53 percent of the poultry retailers and 71 percent of the wholesalers have partially abandoned their activities,” the study said.

“The situation is worrying,” said Alphonse Douaty, minister of Animal Production and Marine Resources. “But it is necessary to think about preserving what is there and to try to inspire consumer confidence.”

Côte d’Ivoire stepped up its surveillance of avian flu after the death of a woman in Nigeria from the virus in February. It was the first human death of H5N1 in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Ivorian government formed its central avian flu committee last April. Another outbreak at a poultry farm outside of Abidjan occurred in November.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
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