An overlooked poultry trade network of the smallholder farms in the border provinces of Thailand, 2021: implications for avian influenza surveillance

Introduction: In Thailand, community-level poultry trade is conducted on a small-scale involving farmers and traders with many trade networks. Understanding the poultry movements may help identify different activities that farmers and traders might contribute to the spread of avian influenza.

Methods: This study aimed to describe the characteristics of players involved in the poultry trade network at the northeastern border of Thailand using network analysis approaches. Mukdahan and Nakhon Phanom provinces, which border Laos, and Ubon Ratchathani province, which borders both Laos and Cambodia, were selected as survey sites.

Results: Local veterinary officers identified and interviewed 338 poultry farmers and eight poultry traders in 2021. A weighted directed network identified incoming and outgoing movements of where the subdistricts traded chickens. Ninety-nine subdistricts and 181 trade links were captured. A self-looping (trader and consumer in the same subdistrict) feedback was found in 56 of 99 subdistricts. The median distance of the movements was 14.02 km (interquartile range (IQR): 6.04-102.74 km), with a maximum of 823.08 km. Most subdistricts in the network had few poultry trade connections, with a median of 1. They typically connected to 1-5 other subdistricts, most often receiving poultry from 1 to 2.5 subdistricts, and sending to 1-2 subdistricts. The subdistricts with the highest overall and in-degree centrality were located in Mukdahan province, whereas one with the highest out-degree centrality was found in Nakhon Phanom province.

Discussion: The poultry movement pattern observed in this network helps explain how avian influenza could spread over the networks once introduced.