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Avian Influenza
on June 29, 2009

Web Exclusive: India’s H5N1 causes regional reverberations

India’s latest AI outbreak is having effects in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and the Middle East.

India’s outbreak of the H5N1 strain of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in Manipur, one of the country’s most isolated states, was barely a week old but already it is having reverberations around the region and increasingly further much further away.

Fears heightened when neighbouring Myanmar announced yet another outbreak of H5N1, this time south of the capital, Yangon. India feels particularly vulnerable to H5N1 in Myanmar because no less than four of its states – Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Arunochal Pradesh – share a 1600km-long border with Myanmar, a country where H5N1 could well be endemic. The government has already asked authorities in Mizoram to guard against chicken smuggling from Myanmar.

Sri Lanka and Bhutan were amongst the first countries to ban imports of poultry and poultry products from India. The Bhutan ban could hit West Bengal poultry trade particularly hard since it imports 1500 tonnes of poultry every year from India. Ironically, Myanmar was another country to ban Indian poultry, but the biggest blow undoubtedly came when United Arab Emirates announced its ban. Indian egg production could be hit particularly hard because an incredible 10 million table eggs are exported monthly from India to the Gulf including Saudi Arabia and Abu Dubai. With its massive egg exports, the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh would be severely punished. 

Middle Eastern observers expect price of eggs in UAE to rise almost immediately by 10-30%. According to marketsources, this is the third time in two years that a ban has been imposed by UAE on the import of Indian poultry products as a precaution against AI. Previous bans imposed in February 2006 and again in March 2007 were lifted in January 2007 and June 2007, respectively.

A near certain shortage of eggs in the UAE market is predicted because Indian eggs take up to 60% of total sales, a retail chain manager told Gulf News. Asian expatriates are fond of Indian eggs, which are the cheapest available costing 6.50-8.00 dirham (AED; US$1.77-2.18) for a tray of 30 eggs.

Others prefer eggs from Gulf countries including the UAE, which cost AED13.50-14.50 ($3.68-3.95) for a 30-egg tray. However, local egg supplies may be tight following the near elimination of the Kuwait egg industry by H5N1 earlier this year. Please see H5N1 Smashes Kuwait's Egg Industry. If the ban continues, the price of eggs could rise substantially like before, claimed the source.

By 1 August 2007, Indian government authorities in Manipur had culled 185,000 birds in a 5km radius of the index flock at Chinmeirong.

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