By Benjamin Flowers
While poultry farmers continue to suffer massive losses due to an outbreak of bird flu, the Belize Poultry Association says it is resisting the temptation to increase prices.
But losses are mounting and Ministry of Health officials estimate than more than 600,000 birds have had to be destroyed.
BPA spokesman Orlando Habet told The Reporter this week that the full extent of the loss has yet to be determined because the Ministry of Agriculture continues to seize and destroy birds found to be infected.
“We are hoping for increased production from the communities in the north such as Blue Creek, Ship Yard, and Little Belize, to make up for the shortfall in production from the west,” Habet said. “Only if absolutely necessary will we be looking at putting in place some kind of temporary increase.”
“Like every other commodity, poultry is subject to the laws of supply and demand, and the BPA cannot control any price increase that results from a shortage of poultry products, Habet said in an interview last month. He estimated that poultry farmers collectively stand to lose some $6 million by the time the crisis is over.
In January health officials discovered that birds from several farms in the Spanish Lookout area had tested positive for bird flu. Further testing revealed that the birds had contracted the H5N2 strain of the virus.
This strain is classified as “low pathogenic”, meaning the risk of contaminating humans is slight. At the onset of the outbreak some 12,000 birds had to be destroyed but this selective culling could not contain the outbreak, which has now become an epidemic.