Avian Flu Outbreak Reported in Jalisco, Mexico's Largest Poultry- and Egg-Producing State

Article excerpt

An avian-flu outbreak in Jalisco state in late June caused the cost of eggs and chicken to increase sharply by the beginning of July, forcing the government to implement emergency price controls.

The avian-flu outbreak was reported on several large commercial farms in the municipalities of Tepatitlan and Acatic in the Altos de Jalisco region, Mexico's principal chicken-producing region. Federal health authorities said avian flu was detected in 2.5 million of the 14.4 million poultry in Jalisco state. A total of 29 farms are thought to be affected.

Mexico's poultry producers organization, the Union Nacional de Avicultores (UNA), estimates that Mexico produces close to 2.5 million tons of eggs and 1.2 million tons of feedlot poultry meat per year. Jalisco accounts for about 55% of national production.

In a report to the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), Mexican health authorities said a series of tests revealed that a highly pathogenic H7N3 subtype of the avian flu was the cause of the current outbreak. The government's animal health agency (Servicio de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria, SENASICA) has begun intensive control efforts in Jalisco. SENASICA comes under the auspices of the Secretaria de Agricultura, Ganaderia, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentacion (SAGARPA).

Jalisco Gov. Emilio Gonzalez Marquez said state and federal authorities had managed to keep the infected farms in isolation and halted the spread of the virus. About 1 million birds had died or been slaughtered since the flu outbreak. "We are still in a containment phase," said Gonzalez Marquez. "We cannot yet ascertain the full magnitude of economic losses."

To prevent the disease from spreading further, authorities announced they had acquired about 2 million doses of vaccine from China through the middle of July, and SENASECA director Enrique Sanchez Cruz said Mexico expects to have about 6 million does available by the end of the month. But that is only a fraction of the birds that will need to be inoculated. To remedy the situation, Mexico is expected to supplement the supply of vaccines against the H7N3 with output from its own laboratories. "Mexico is in the process of developing the vaccine, and, by August, we should be able to produce 80 million doses here at home," President Felipe Calderon told reporters.

The situation forced SAGARPA and the Secretaria de Economia (SE) to intervene on two fronts. The first was to safeguard the poultry industry in Jalisco, which is worth about US$2.5 billion. Producers in Jalisco complained that other states had placed an embargo on all eggs and poultry products originating in Mexico, effectively shutting off sales to the rest of the country.

Government moves to prevent price speculation on eggs

The second action was to protect the interests of consumers, as the outbreak of avian flu resulted in numerous cases of price speculation even though Mexico has an ample supply of eggs and chicken to meet domestic demand. Eggs are an important staple of the Mexican diet, with consumption estimated at about 20. …