“Brazil has a solid prevention plan and has been preparing for over 20 years to prevent the virus from entering.”
Ariel Mendes is the CEO of the Foundation for the Support of Poultry Science and Technology – FACTA, a veterinarian graduated from the Federal University of Paraná, M.Sc. from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul and Ph.D. from the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
FACTA is a non-profit civil organization focused on promoting and disseminating knowledge and technologies for poultry farming.
AgriBrasilis – Is the arrival of avian flu in Brazil an imminent threat? What are the consequences of the occurrence of the disease in the country?
Ariel Mendes – With the recent cases in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela, Chile, Uruguay and Argentina, only Brazil and Paraguay are still free of this disease in South America.
As Brazil is an exporting country, the entry of the virus into our territory, in commercial farms, will bring as an immediate consequence the interruption of exports of chicken and eggs to markets that require the condition of “disease free country”, in addition to huge financial losses with the mortality and sacrifice of thousands or millions of birds to eradicate outbreaks.
AgriBrasilis – What actions are being taken to prevent the entry of avian flu?
Ariel Mendes – Brazil has a solid prevention plan and has been preparing for over 20 years to prevent the virus from entering. To this end, robust investments were made by the public sector in laboratory infrastructure for diagnosis, training, simulations and the creation of emergency response groups.
As for the private sector, investments were made to adapt facilities, purchase personal protective equipments – PPE and train personnel.
AgriBrasilis – Is the poultry sector prepared for possible emergency measures? What is the protocol for confirmed cases?
Ariel Mendes – Yes, the sector is prepared. But, because of the size of the Brazilian poultry industry, there are still some bottlenecks, such as the need to expand the diagnostic capacity, better structure the compensation funds for the compensation of dead and sacrificed birds, and expand health insurance, since currently only the State of Mato Grosso has this mechanism. Some States still do not have enough PPE and supplies for sample collection and for the sacrifice and disposal of dead birds.
AgriBrasilis – You said that “the poultry farm is not a place for visits”. Why? What are the main biosecurity practices in poultry farming?
Ariel Mendes – Biosecurity is the keyword, as the virus is carried by migratory and wild birds, farms must be armored to prevent the virus from entering the sheds. This is done through anti-bird screens, rodent control, water treatment and bedding material, and by taking care of workers who must shower, change clothes and shoes before entering the sheds.
On the issue of visits, nowadays it is inadmissible to receive strangers on the farms. In the case of workers, they are prohibited from having birds in their homes, for example. We must ensure that whoever enters the farms has not had contact with backyard or wild birds, that may be contaminated.
AgriBrasilis – The State of Paraná asked the Ministry of Agriculture to become an autonomous productive area. What does that mean? What are the necessary steps?
Ariel Mendes – Many health certificates negotiated with our importers mention the requirement of “country, zone or compartment free of Avian Influenza”. This means that, in case the virus enters Brazil, the Ministry of Agriculture will propose zoning, that is justifiable in view of the continental dimensions of the country.
The plan is outlined, but this will only occur after the onset of the disease. This zoning will probably be by Region or State. The United States did this for counties, that are regions equivalent to our municipalities. Mexico also has a free zone program, for example.
As for compartmentalization, today all genetic houses are compartmentalized. In the case of chicken production, only the Seara de Itapiranga unit in the state of Santa Catarina is compartmentalized.
AgriBrasilis – What is the current scenario of the poultry sector? Why?
Ariel Mendes – The broiler industry has been recovering from a severe crisis resulting from the increase in the cost of inputs, mainly corn and soybean meal. The egg sector is going through a good moment because the accommodations are adjusted.
On the other hand, chicken exports have been breaking records mainly because of the high demand from China. This is likely to continue for the next few months or even years if the Avian Influenza situation continues in the US and Europe.
AgriBrasilis – What has motivated the successive decreases in the purchasing power of poultry farmers?
Ariel Mendes – This is because of the increase in inputs, as mentioned above, in addition to the imbalance between supply and demand and because we were unable to pass forward the increase in costs to the price of products.
Retail in Brazil is very organized and manages to keep its profit margins high. With that, and with the low purchasing power of the population, the poultry farmer/breeder is the weak link in this chain. We will only be able to reverse this situation if we manage to adjust supply to demand, as happened with the egg production sector.