- The government of Tanzania's semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar will not lift a ban imposed in 2005 on poultry imports, despite pressure from poultry farmers and retailers, the island's Chief Minister, Shamsi Vuai Nahodha, said on Thursday.
"The ban will remain in force indefinitely," Nahodha said in a statement issued in the capital, Stone Town.
Poultry farmers, businessmen and residents have been urging the government to allow them to at least import poultry produce from the Tanzanian mainland, which, together with Unguja and Pemba - the islands that form Zanzibar - make up the United Republic of Tanzania.
"We are aware of the difficulties the people have been facing," Nahodha said.
He said the government would help poultry farmers on the islands to increase production instead. "The government can help purchase incubators and other equipment to increase production of chicks and eggs," he said.
Zanzibar imposed the ban in a bid to protect the public from the deadly avian flu. Since 2005, there has been a huge demand for poultry products on the island, especially from the tourism industry.
Bird flu has been identified in several African countries, including Nigeria, Sudan, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Egypt, where it has killed dozens of people.
Khatib Suleiman, the Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Environment, said his ministry had intensified the war against possible outbreaks of bird flu on the two islands.
In addition to preparing the island for a possible bird flu outbreak by improving laboratories and at least two hospitals, Suleiman said, his ministry had been conducting "awareness campaigns to educate different groups of people on bird flu through seminars, media and circulation of leaflets and brochures in all districts".
He said the ministry would continue to inform poultry farmers, business people, community leaders, students and security personnel on bird-flu preparedness in 2007.
He urged the public "to be patient and accept the government's plans to protect them from bird flu".
He added: "This is one of the worst diseases, especially in poor nations".
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