When we think about Latin American poultry exporters, the first country that comes to our mind is Brazil, for obvious reasons. Then maybe Chile and Argentina. But that’s it.
However, that does not mean that many other countries do not dream of becoming exporters too – Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Honduras, to mention a few. There are important differences in all these countries compared to Brazil and Argentina, like the fact that they are all net importers of grains and oilseeds. This is particularly important with today’s high cost of commodities. But maybe good production efficiencies, benign weather conditions and lower wages can help to catapult them.
Notwithstanding, there is a tremendous barrier to export – the poultry health status. Last week, Mexico reported an AH7N3 avian flu virus outbreak in a commercial broiler operation, after quite a long time without any cases. And this week, sadly enough, Colombia reported an outbreak of Newcastle disease in fighting cocks.
I say sadly enough, because last year Colombia made a great song and dance while declaring themselves as a Newcastle disease-free country, recognized by the World Organization for Animal Health. They really worked hard on several fronts to eradicate the disease, whether it be through vaccinations, training or sacrificing birds as well as the strong support of their institutions. Colombians had the dream of exporting poultry products, and this outbreak was a setback.
The same is happening with Mexico. Avian flu has been lingering for 10 years already and that means that becoming an exporter is more difficult. And the same is happening with Peru and its dream of exporting chicken.
To dream the impossible dream seems to be the frame of mind. But time goes by, and some things change, but others seem not to change. Something needs to be done.
Do these countries need a strong and internationally recognized animal health entity like Chile? Should compartmentalization be emphasized? Do they need a zero tolerance? A strong public/private poultry funding in case sacrificing birds needs to be done?
What do you think?