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Tue 8 Nov 2005 04:00 AM

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Chicken firms avoid catching flu

The UAE’s strategy to prevent the spread of bird flu has met with mixed opinions from those involved in the sector.

The UAE’s strategy to prevent bird flu entering the country has met with mixed opinions from those involved in the sector.

The recent move by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to ban imports of poultry and its products, including hatching eggs from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, Turkey, Romania, and all Asian countries, sparked ire from the Emirates Poultry Producers Association (EPPA) — although not all retailers in the region share the trade body’s opinion.

Dr Hussain Hassanin, technical secretary at EPPA claims the UAE’s import ban on hatching eggs will cause a shortage of poultry and said the organisation is appealing against the decision.

“The UAE needs 60 million eggs to produce the chickens people eat. But our farms here produces only 20 million eggs,” he was reported saying in local newspapers.

L.M. Lal, sales director at Federal Foods, a Dubai-based food distributor, also fears the ban might be a move too far. “It’s going to bring in a lot of difficulty in the production capacity of the local manufacturers,” he told RNME.

“The local manufacturers don’t have the capacity to produce the eggs locally and they were supplementing with imports. If the imports are stopped then to an extent the availability will be reduced.”

But while the EPPA’s stance has struck a chord with many food manufacturers and distributors that rely on a steady flow of poultry, many retailers agree that it is best to err on the side of caution.

For example, Fred Watts, general manager at retail chain Al Maya Group said he agrees with the ban. “It’s a very serious matter and I think you’ve got to take the precautions and steps to ensure that it [bird flu] doesn’t come in,” Watts told RNME.

“God forbid, if it comes in it could wipe out all these plants that we’ve got here already. I don’t think it’s an overreaction at all. I just think it’s the right precautionary steps that they’re taking in line with international standards. I actually applaud them for taking the steps until we get over the hump.

“I don’t really know how long this is going to be around. I’ve heard various reports. I think it’s one of those things we’re just going to have to stay with until we get the all clear, and that can only come from the regulating authorities,” he added.

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