Bangkok, Thailand, 11 Apr 2013 -- Containment of the A(H7N9) influenza virus in China, which has been confirmed in 34 people, including nine who died, will require the implementation of strong biosecurity measures. Unlike other influenza strains, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza H5N1, the new virus is difficult to detect in poultry, because it produces almost no signs of disease in birds, Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific said today during his monthly briefing for the media.
"It is likely that farmers do not realize that the new virus is circulating in their flock, because their chickens are not dying off in large numbers like they were when they contracted the H5N1 virus,” said Konuma. “With the virus harder to detect, this means good biosecurity and hygiene measures become even more important to reduce the risk of virus transmission to humans and animals. Good biosecurity and hygiene represent the first line of defense for the food chain,” Konuma said.
FAO commends China's quick notification of human cases and subsequent release of detailed information to the public on the nature of the virus and other precautionary measures. FAO and the international scientific community have used this information to analyze the virus sequence trying to better understand its behavior and its potential impact on humans and animals.
Konuma said that FAO is monitoring the situation closely through its network of country and regional offices and key partners, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE).
The Harbin Veterinary Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, which is the FAO and OIE reference centre, is leading laboratory analysis in response to the situation.
On the FAO Food Price Index, which was issued from FAO’s Headquarters in Rome, today, Konuma said the Index ticked up slightly in March mostly because of higher dairy prices. “The FAO Food Price Index averaged 212 points in March 2013, up 1 percent from February, but 1.7 percent below March last year and nearly 11 percent below its peak in February 2011.”
Konuma added, “Importantly for Asia, rice prices remained generally unchanged as falling prices in Asia were compensated by rising US quotations. Wheat prices fell initially on improved weather conditions in major growing regions, rose because of unseasonably cold temperatures during the second half of March, and have resumed their decline from early April.”
The FAO price index is only one indicator of how prices of selected raw material used for producing food are behaving at the world level. They may not always reflect situation at local or national levels but could provide good information to policy makers about the trend in international markets.
The FAO estimate for world cereal production in 2012 was revised upward by nearly 3 million tonnes since March, to 2 309 million tonnes, including rice in milled terms, according to the FAO Cereal Supply and Demand Brief also issued today in Rome.
Konuma said, “The upward revision reflects adjustments for coarse grains and rice, while wheat was revised downward slightly. At that level 2012 global cereal production would still be about 2 percent short of the previous year’s record.”
Looking forward to the coming season, Konuma said, “World cereal production in 2013 could recover strongly barring unfavourable weather in major producing regions. The rebound would be driven by an expansion of plantings brought about by attractive prices, and a recovery in yields from below-average levels in 2012.”
Konuma added, “However, as the bulk of the 2013 coarse grains and paddy crops will only be planted in the next few months, it is still too early even for a preliminary forecast of global cereal output in the coming season.”
Konuma announced that FAO, in cooperation with the Asia Institute of Technology in Bangkok, will launch the Asia Pacific SAVE FOOD Campaign in mid-July 2013. “The campaign will be a wide-ranging public information initiative to raise awareness of the magnitude of food waste and food losses from farm to markets, in restaurants and on dining tables. The campaign will highlight the impact that food waste has on Asia-Pacific food security and hunger.”
Konuma also distributed the SAVE FOOD Campaign logo to correspondents attending the briefing.