Thailand's livestock industry is expected to see flat growth this year mainly due to anticipated shrinking consumption caused by the global economic crisis.
"Two-percent growth would be the best performance for the sector," said Yukol Limlaemthong, director-general of Livestock Development Department at the Agriculture Ministry. "But we foresee flat growth is much more likely."
The livestock industry, both for domestic consumption and exports, generated revenue estimated about 348 billion baht in 2008. Exports, led by processed poultry, contributed about 100 billion baht of the total.
Apart from shrinking world consumption demand, the livestock industry is also facing high prices for animal feeds such as corn and soybeans.
According to Mr Yukol, bleak prospects for the country's poultry shipments are also anticipated because of the world economic crisis, with exports expected to be valued about 40-45 billion baht this year, unchanged from a year earlier.
Pork exports are also unlikely to see much change from 10,000 tonnes a year mostly in processed products shipped to Japan and elsewhere in Asia.
"This year, farmers have to adjust their production to cope with shrinking demand. Their production should be determined more by the marketing and demand side," Mr Yukol said.
According to the director-general, epidemics are another challenge for the industry, so authorities and farmers need to engage in very close monitoring.
Bird flu has re-emerged as a threat in Asia after China recently reported that the disease killed a woman in Beijing and neighbouring Vietnam said a girl had contracted the virus.
The cases are the first involving humans in the two countries in nearly a year, and mark a reappearance of the H5N1 virus as Asia moves into the cold winter months that typically favour the spread of the virus.
H5N1 bird flu has killed 247 people since it reappeared in Asia in 2003, according to the WHO's latest tally.
One of the department's priorities, therefore, is to closely monitor the movement of poultry using electronic technology to supervise real-time animal movements, he said.
"We are strongly committed to wiping out bird flu in the risk areas, notably in the lower northern areas this year," said Mr Yukol.