Humble houseflies have managed to achieve in Malaysia what even H5N1 strain of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus failed to do. HPAI continues to impact heavily on the design and structure of poultry industries in many Asian countries. Some – including Thailand, Indonesia and China – are moving towards larger integrated poultry companies at the expense of small producers, consolidation of slaughter and processing in large industrial units, closing of live bird and wet markets and stopping homeowners from keeping backyard birds.
Malaysia’s poultry industry is one of the very few to completely avoid or successfully stamp out the disease but it has subsequently yielded to something altogether more everyday and mundane. Houseflies (Musca domestica) and closely related dipterous insects that plague poultry production units and surrounding areas throughout the world especially in hot climates are forcing significant changes on the structure of the Malaysian poultry industry.
Massive problems with flies have led the Malaysian government to prohibit the setting up of new poultry farms in the state of Negri Sembilan. By the end of this year, established chicken breeders can only stay in business if they convert existing open farming systems to closed housing. The authorities claim the general population can no longer suffer the danger and inconvenience of huge fly populations generated by poultry farms. They say that the state already has enough poultry production and does not require any more farms.
Neither will they consider requests from poultry farmers to extend the deadline, claiming an established three-year deadline came to an end in December 2006. This gave farmers a whole year to make the necessary arrangements for conversion from open to closed poultry houses.
The state government clearly wants to centralise and consolidate poultry farming in Negri Sembilan into larger closed units but claims that it has yet to receive level of positive feedback and co-operation required, even though they have offered land for this purpose.
Some may think the moves are drastic considering the problem is ‘only’ houseflies. But this common and ubiquitous insect pest is increasingly identified as a potential vector for a wide range of serious diseases affecting poultry and people, the latest being H5N1 avian influenza.