Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Bird Flu Impact in Baghdad

Abandoned chicken coop in my grandmother in law's garden.

I was grocery shopping the other day in a new supermarket, and I saw a sign that read, "Sterilized Tray of Eggs" (tabaqit bayd mu'aqqam). It kind of amused me and reminded me of one of the many effects that the bird flu has had on Baghdad, especially since a death was blamed on it in the north of Iraq back in mid January of this year.

Some of the effects of the bird flu in Baghdad:

* Many families raised chicken in their home gardens, even in urban Baghdad. Since the scare, most people have gotten rid of these chicken, including my husband's grandparents, my cleaning lady and most importantly, our neighbors. (Their chicken (coop right behind our house) woke me up at the most random hours of the night.) :)

* Egg and chicken prices have hit the highest and lowest prices in ages. Before the bird flu scare, a tray of eggs (36 eggs) cost around 3,000 ID (1500 ID = $1 USD). During the highest point of the scare, when people stopped buying eggs, the price plummetted to 750 ID. Since then, as demand has increased and egg availability lessened, prices have slowly climbed to 4000 ID. Today, my aunt in law told me that her husband bought a tray yesterday for 5000 ID. From 3000 ID to 5000 ID in less than a year!

* The same has happened with chicken meat prices, which were relatively affordable pre-bird flu at around 1500-2000 ID per kilogram. The price plummetted during the scare to 750 ID/kg and has since reached 4000 ID per kilo of Iraqi chicken meat and 5000 ID per kilo of imported chicken meat.

* When people stopped buying eggs because of the scare, stores tried to find innovative ways to sell them. They started cleaning or 'sterilizing' (ta'qeem) the outside of the eggs. Usually, eggs here are sold very fresh, with all the marks of the chicken on them (stuck feathers, chicken poop, etc). So, generally, this is a good step. But my aunt in law was telling me a while back that one tray of eggs they bought all tasted like bleach when cooked. So some people are 'sterilizing' the eggs with bleach, but others have started using vinegar.

* I was informed today that the Iraqi government is not allowing the import of chicken or eggs anymore, likely as a preventative measure. I think that's comforting, but I don't know how many measures are being taken to ensure that poultry here are healthy and 'flu-less.'

* Hoping that the virus does not mutate and start spreading from human to human, because the Iraqi government at the current time would not be able to handle such a crisis.

Some links on the subject: here, here, here and for a good round up here.


Anonymous said...

subhannallah. atleast we have eggs that are inexpensive here.

Anonymous said...

Wow that's so scary. You never imagine world epidemics and problems like that hit so close to home. Stay safe inshaAllah.

The Heretical Jew said...

There is a way to flash pasteurise eggs without cooking them or affecting their taste. Ofcourse that demands equipment.

BTW one US dollar for 36 eggs is a very good price. Here in America a doxen eggs costs a dollar.

f.d.rahman said...

man.. I'm so glad those annoying roosters near your house are gone, but its so sad seeing all of mami's birds gone, too... the pen looks so weird empty.

Fatima said...

Hey heretical jew,
Its actually over $3 for 3 dozen eggs now (5000 ID). In the States, you pay close to that price. So if you compare monthly salaries, its quite expensive.

Prathiba said...

But Bird Flu is better than War Flu spread by Bush

Fatima said...

Interesting point prathiba, though if its becomes a pandemic like the flu epidemic of 1918-1919, it could be worse.

The Heretical Jew said...

Good point. I did not consider the income difference.