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Bird flu hits East Europe poultry sales, production

by 5m Editor
20 January 2006, at 12:00am

EAST EUROPE - Europe's consumers are shunning poultry over fears of bird flu again, particularly in countries nearer to Turkey, where authorities are battling to contain an outbreak of the virus that has killed four children.

Bird flu hits East Europe poultry sales, production - EAST EUROPE - Europe's consumers are shunning poultry over fears of bird flu again, particularly in countries nearer to Turkey, where authorities are battling to contain an outbreak of the virus that has killed four children.

Bulgarian poultry producers fear they will be forced to halve output due to sagging demand, while sales in Romania are down 40 percent, and in Hungary producers fear the number of chicken reared may fall further. "We had been expecting sales to come back to normal, almost three months after the disease surfaced in Romania," Ilie Van, president of the Romanian poultry producers association, told Reuters.

"But (the situation in) Turkey has blocked any revival of sales... monthly sales dropped by 40 percent or 7,000 tonnes from the level recorded in September," he said. Romania has found the avian flu in fowl in 26 villages since October but has recorded no human cases of the disease.

Turkey, 200 km (125 miles) away across the Black Sea, has confirmed 21 cases of humans with the deadly H5N1 strain of the avian influenza virus, which has killed at least 79 people worldwide since 2003, the vast majority in East Asia. "We have reduced production by 30 percent and maybe we will have to reduce it further," Anatoli Kolev, executive director of poultry producer Polo Commerce, told Monitor daily in Bulgaria, which lies between Romania and Turkey.

Hungarian producers were hoping for a recovery in the end-year holiday season, as bird flu news temporarily disappeared from front pages, and after a $1 million promotion campaign to stress Hungarian poultry was safe to eat. But a 10-percent drop in November in the number of chicken bred is showing in slaughterhouses around now, due to the six-week rearing cycle, and this trend may continue.

"It is too early to say, but the first signs indicate we may end up at the other extreme, with too little chicken, on the breeding side," Laszlo Takacs, director of Hungary's Poultry Product Council told Reuters. He said losses from lower sales and higher storage costs have reached around 2.5 billion forints ($12.05 million).

FRANCE, ITALY DOWN, SPAIN UP

The picture was more varied going further away from the Black Sea region, with France and Italy still suffering from lower sales, but with recovery in Spain, while the industry in Germany and Britain was not hit in the first place. In France, Europe's biggest poultry producer with an annual turnover of more than six billion euros, demand has dropped 20 percent again since the beginning of the year after recovering over the Christmas period, the farm minister said this week.

Dominique Bussereau promised funding for the sector worth six million euros ($7.28 million) to help compensate for lower sales and prices, but farmers' groups said the amount was insufficient. "This has left a bitter taste with breeders. The new 20 percent drop in French chicken consumption since the start of 2006 has hit them hard," farm union Coordination Rurale said.

In Italy, sales have dipped by up to 50 percent and farm union Coldiretti said the outbreak in Turkey has accentuated the downturn. It put the cost to the industry at 500 million euros. Poland, the largest among the 10 newcomers to the European Union, recorded sharply lower poultry prices, but producers were upbeat about consumption and exports.

"Prices are now some 25-30 percent down compared with last year's highest levels and we observe a small fall in domestic demand, but there is no slump," Leszek Kawski, the Polish Poultry Chamber's director general, told Reuters. "Our consumption is still high and tops the EU average." "And the positive news is our exports are jumping. Polish poultry is now the cheapest in the EU and its quality is really good, so orders keep coming," he said.

Source: Reuters - 20th January 2006

5m Editor