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Human-avian cases in China cause concern

Human-avian cases in China cause concern

  • Updated

A sharp increase in the number of human avian influenza cases in China has shaken the poultry industry’s global outlook for 2017. Incidents of the virus have dramatically changed market conditions in China as prices there have fallen to historic lows.

According to RaboResearch’s Global Poultry Quarterly for first-quarter 2017, the avian influenza situation has significant implications, both locally and globally for the poultry industry. Avian influenza has been spreading across other parts of the world, including Europe, Africa and the rest of Asia, but its impact on markets has been relatively low there, with most industries still performing relatively well.

After a sharp increase in the number of human avian influenza cases in China, fears are rising over human-to-human cases with a risk of a pandemic – but no signs of such cases have been found so far. The economic impact of these human avian influenza cases is big, with falling live-broiler prices – down 50 percent compared to early third-quarter 2016 – and a slowdown in import growth. Consumers have moved away from wet markets, which usually sell more than half of all poultry.

RaboResearch senior animal-protein analyst Nan-Dirk Mulder said, “The global impact of avian influenza on trade is significant, with ongoing restrictions on trade from Europe and also still from the United States.

“The recent Chinese human (avian influenza) cases dramatically turned Chinese market conditions, especially at wet markets, and this will indirectly reduce the appetite for poultry imports in the coming months.

“This will affect global markets for wings, feet and legs, especially in Brazil, which is a major exporter to China. Markets, including China, will gradually recover after the northern-hemisphere winter season, when avian influenza pressure will likely be reduced.”

Markets with a domestic focus are still performing well, including some markets with avian influenza outbreaks such as India, Russia, the European Union and Ukraine. Supply tends to be tight, and many markets are benefiting from lower feed costs, especially in Russia, Brazil, South Africa and India.

“The new global avian influenza crisis provides another wake-up call,” Mulder said. “It will force the industry and governments to further modernise business models, as the virus will remain endemic in wild-bird populations.

“Optimal biosecurity, modern value-chain and distribution models, and regionalisation will be key themes.”

Meanwhile investigations in the vicinity of an avian influenza outbreak in England found another case of the disease nearby on another farm. The latest case of the dreaded bird flu resulted in 55,000 ducks being culled in Norfolk.

DEFRA – the Department for Environment Food & Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom – said routine investigations following a confirmed case of H5N8 near Redgrave in Suffolk led to detection of the virus at further separate premises. Due to the unacceptable high risk and to contain possible spread of the bird flu, the United Kingdom’s deputy chief veterinary officer confirmed that proactive culling of about 55,000 birds was required.

According to DEFRA, “The premises will then be cleansed and disinfected, further reducing the risk to other birds. A 3-kilometer Protection Zone and a 10-kilometer Surveillance Zone are already in place following the previous case in the area.

“Our investigations will continue and the restrictions already placed on the site will remain in force until cleansing and disinfection is finished and the investigation is complete.

“Public Health England advises that the risk to public health from the virus is very low and the Food Standards Agency is clear that bird flu does not pose a food-safety risk for UK consumers.”

According to reports, the virus was not found in any ducks but it was found in the environment at the farm and the culling was essential as a precaution.

Chris McCullough, brought up on a dairy and beef farm in the heart of Northern Ireland, is a journalist who specialises in the international world of agriculture.

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