THE banning of imported poultry products from four exporting countries due to the outbreak of the avian influenza, or bird flu virus, in parts of Asia and Europe does not threaten the supply of these commodities in Negros Occidental.

Provincial Veterinarian Renante Decena yesterday said the province currently has surplus in supply of poultry products, particularly chicken.

Decena said Negros Occidental produces an average of 16 million heads of broiler and free-range chicken for meat purposes yearly.

In terms of gamefowl, the province has an annual average production of 500,000 heads, he added.

With its production capacity, Negros Occidental has remained to be the country’s leader in free-range chicken production, and gamefowl industry.

“There is nothing to worry about the supply. In fact, the province is still exporting poultry products especially chicken to other provinces,” Decena said, adding that due to high demand, prices have even dropped this month.

On Sunday, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol, in his Facebook account, said he signed directives effectively banning all poultry products from South Korea, Germany, France and the Netherlands to protect the country’s poultry industry.

Pending the review of the status of the poultry industry in other countries, Piñol said the Philippines will continue to accept imported poultry products, including dressed and deboned chicken, eggs and ducks from United States, Canada, and Australia.

“The poultry industry is the source of livelihood of millions of Filipino farmers. Any outbreak of diseases in the sector will have a devastating effect on the lives of many poor (families), not to mention the threat to the health of our people,” Piñol added.

Amid the importation ban due to bird flu virus, Decena said the province’s main concern now is also to protect its gamefowl industry.

Decena said the gamefowl sector is the underground economy of the province with an industry value of about P6 billion, and is providing employment to thousands of Negrenses.

“Despite that the Philippines has remained a bird flu-free country, we have to maintain stability in implementing necessary preventive measures,” he added.

The International Animal Health Organization based in Paris is regularly requiring member-countries free of avian influenza to submit monthly monitoring reports.

In Negros Occidental, the Provincial Veterinary Office (PVO) is collecting samples for laboratory testing of fowls from towns of Himamaylan and San Enrique, which are considered migration sites.

As part of the quarantine procedures, visitors from bird flu infected countries are allowed to enter the farms after a down time of three days.