Thai Agriculture Minister Dismissed Over Bird Flu
This is Gwen Outen with the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.
Thailand and its chicken industry continue to deal with the effects from the spread of bird influenza. Last week, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra replaced his agriculture minister.
The dismissal followed an emergency meeting called by the prime minister at the end of September. Mr. Thaksin threatened to dismiss several ministers if the avian influenza problem is not controlled by the end of October.
The World Health Organization, however, noted that an outbreak in Mexico in nineteen ninety-two took three years to control completely. Thai officials admitted early this year that they had not done enough to control the outbreak in their country.
Cases of bird flu have been reported in almost half the provinces in Thailand. The most recent report to the World Organization for Animal Health said forty-six more farms reported cases in the last week of September. At least twenty-five thousand birds were destroyed. Not only chickens have been affected, but also ducks and other birds.
The World Health Organization said a nine-year-old girl died of avian influenza on October third. Her death was the eleventh this year caused by the form of virus called h-five-n-one. Thai officials recently announced a case in which they said one person had probably infected another with avian flu. However, that possibility was not immediately confirmed.
Avian influenza has meant heavy economic losses for Thai agriculture. Last year, Thailand was the biggest exporter of chicken products in Asia. It was the fourth largest exporter in the world. But the United States Agriculture Department says it expects Thai chicken exports to fall by sixty percent this year. The department estimates Thailand will export about two hundred thousand metric tons.
On September fifteenth, the European Union extended a ban on chicken, eggs and live birds from Thailand and nine other Asian countries. The ban will stay in effect at least until the end of March.
The Thai government is trying to get farmers to raise chickens in buildings, not in open areas where wild birds could infect them. Officials are also urging people to report any suspected cases of bird flu, and to wear protection if they ever touch dead birds. People are being told to put dead birds in plastic bags and give them to health or agricultural officials.
This VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by Mario Ritter. This is Gwen Outen.