EghtesadOnline: Iranian poultry farms have been dealing with the deadly avian flu, especially the H5N8 strain of the virus, for several years now. The virus has done a number on Iran’s poultry industry.
Iran Veterinary Organization has devised measures to deal with the flu and help reduce losses.
Director General of IVO’s Health and Management of Poultry Diseases Office Alireza Akbarshahi told Financial Tribune that the number of infected farms has declined noticeably.
"Last year, 35 farms were infected during the Iranian month ending Oct. 22, while the number fell to only five during the same month this year," he said, adding that the number of infected farms decreased to 17 during the month ending Nov. 21 from 104 during last year’s same month, Financial Tribune reported.
“So far, 30 million doses of vaccines of the highly acute avian flu have been imported into the country. The vaccines are planned to be used for 13,700,000 birds; 8,700 birds have been vaccinated until now,” he added.
Akbarshahi believes there have been remarkable improvements in dealing with avian flu, as monitoring and detection have improved.
"IVO has 16 dedicated laboratories to deal with the virus and detection time has decreased from 48-72 hours to 5-6 hours," he said.
The IVO has devised a specific checklist for the farms to follow. The checklist encompasses quarantine, safety and health measures to help reduce infection risks.
One of the most important measures taken by IVO to combat the acute virus across Iran, according to the official, was the decentralization of chicken farming, especially in production hubs.
Accordingly, chicken farming has spread across more areas of the country.
IVO also has provided chicken farmers with special training to manage their farms and apply safety measures.
Akbarshahi noted that IVO has detected 621 points of entry in Iran for the virus and careful monitoring is being carried out to avoid an outbreak and heavy losses.
"IVO has formed a new taskforce to detect and deal with new strains of the virus," he said.
Worst-Case Scenario: 30% of Last Year's Losses
In the worst-case scenario, the country will suffer only 30% of the losses incurred last year, the official said.
Some 100 million egg-laying hens were reportedly infected with the deadly avian flu in Iran last year, causing more than $500 million in losses to poultry farms.
Akbarshahi strongly urged chicken farmers and bird breeders to not let their birds make contact with wild birds that may carry and spread the virus.
"Bird breeders, especially in northern provinces, should keep their birds caged in closed areas and take safety and health precautions seriously," he said.
Iran reported an outbreak of the H5N8 bird flu virus among backyard poultry in the north of the country, the Paris-based World Organization for Animal Health said last week, citing a report from Iran’s Agriculture Ministry, Reuters reported.
The virus infected 10 out of a flock of 138 geese, ducks, free-range chickens in the village of Valiran in the Tehran region, the report said.
Five birds died of the virus while the rest of the flock were culled, it said.
Situation Under Control
In a separate interview, secretary of Iran’s Union of Producers of Egg-Laying Hen Farzad Talakesh said the reported case does not imply an epidemic in Iran and the situation is currently under control.
Yet, he said the virus could come back more aggressively later in the year, as the weather gets colder.
Talakesh believes training chicken farmers in East Azarbaijan, Qazvin, Alborz, Tehran, Qom, Isfahan and Mazandaran provinces should be prioritized, since these are the hubs of chicken and egg production in the country.
According to the official, units planning to start/resume production are required to establish proper safety and health infrastructures to become eligible to operate.
The H5N8 strain of bird flu infecting Iranian farms is deadly for poultry, but according to World Health Organization, although human infection with the virus cannot be excluded, the likelihood is low.
According to Nasser Nabipour, the head of the board of directors at Tehran's Union of Producers of Egg-Laying Chicken, the first strains of avian flu hit Iran in the fiscal 2010-11.
"The more deadly strain of the virus emerged in 2015-16, infecting over 1,500 egg-laying hen farms," he said.
Last year, the outbreak in egg-laying chicken farms initially led to a sharp rise in egg prices and shortage of supply. Later, the government moved to meet shortage and balance the market by importing eggs, mainly from Turkey.
Iran produces over 2 million tons of chicken annually and is among the biggest producer of chicken in the world. Iran’s per capita chicken consumption stands at 26-27 kg per year, while the global average is 13-15 kg.
Iran Poultry industry Overview
Iranian poultry industry has been facing tough challenges in recent years.
Iran is the biggest chicken producer in the Middle East and should be able to create a high number of jobs in this industry, but this is not the case.
More than one million people are directly employed in this industry while millions of others are indirectly involved.
Producers have trouble providing liquidity and raw materials, i.e. livestock feed, so many workers have lost their jobs, ILNA reported.
The rise in foreign currency rates in recent months has led to an increase in costs for poultry farmers.
According to a new report published by Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture citing data from the Statistical Center of Iran, there are a total of 1,746 chicken farms in Iran, 7% of which are located in the capital.
Figures show 22.6% of Iran’s total chicken farms and around 50% of those located in Tehran are inactive.
Although the number of active chicken farms in the country has risen in the current fiscal year (March 2018-19) compared with the previous year, Iran’s total egg output and Tehran’s production have witnessed a staggering decline of 79% and 72% respectively.
Among Iran’s total chicken farms, 402 were inactive last year. The number decreased to 394 in the current year.
Meanwhile, 72 chicken farms in Tehran out of a total 122 were not active last year, while the number decreased to 61 this year. In other words, 50% of the chicken farms in Tehran are not operating.
Figures in this report are based on a survey conducted by SCI on Iran’s egg-laying chicken farms during the two months to Aug. 22.
Iranian egg-laying hen farms have an annual capacity of producing 98.4 million chickens, around 12.8 million of which belong to Tehran.
The capacity of chicken farms rose from 79.9 million chickens last year to 80.4 million this year. In Tehran, the capacity rose from 6.2 million to 8.1 million, meaning out of a total 12.8 million, around 4.6 million ones were not realized.
Egg output witnessed a staggering decline, from about 674,000 tons last year to 142,000 tons this year, indicating a 79% decrease year-on-year. In Tehran too, the fall was steep, going down from 21,000 tons last year to 6,000 tons this year.
The report noted that 15% of Iran’s chicken farms are private-owned, 6% are cooperatives, 1% are government-owned and the remaining 1% belong to other entities.
In Tehran, 12% of the chicken farms are private-owned, 1% cooperatives and 1% related to other entities. The capital has no state-owned chicken farms.
Last year, 11,416 people are working in Iran’s chicken farms. In Tehran, the number was around 562. On average, 8.5 people are working in every chicken farm. The average is 9.2 in Tehran.