Turkish poultry exports to its key export market of Iraq could partially restart this week if discussions between officials from the two countries are successful.

Iraq, Turkey’s largest foreign destination for broiler meat and eggs, stopped importing Turkish poultry products following the outbreak of H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in late April. However, unlike some other trade partners, including Russia, Iraq banned imports from the whole country, rather than only from the affected zones.

Turkey had been free of HPAI since 2008, however, ongoing monitoring detected an infected small backyard flock in late April. The disease subsequently spread to three different sites, although its origin remains unknown.

The disease and associated export restrictions have hit egg producers particularly hard as Turkey exports 20-30 percent of its eggs. Prices on the domestic market usually fall in May and June and, with exports restricted, prices on the home market fell further still, although some recovery has now taken place.

This latest avian influenza outbreak, which started in the north of the country before spreading west, has been less severe than the outbreak of 2008, as has been consumer reaction, in part because media channels focused their attention on the run-up to national elections rather than on the disease.

Only one commercial farm was affected, with the other outbreaks being in backyard flocks. Individual companies and the government have monitoring programs, and the response to the outbreaks by both the private and public sectors is thought to have been good, industry sources say.

Return to normal

With no further infected premises reported since late May the outbreak is now thought to be over, although monitoring is continuing, and genetics companies and others are continuing to offer their clients ongoing animal health and biosecurity advice.

The country has sufficient breeding farms that the ongoing difficulties with avian influenza in the US are not expected to affect stocks going forward. If discussions with Iraq prove successful, the restart of exports will not be from the whole country - infected areas may not export for three months following the culling of flocks.