Bird flu fears send sales, prices plummeting
25 October 2005
BRUSSELS — Belgian poultry sales have already been hard hit by “premature panic” of a bird flu outbreak despite the fact the virus has not yet been detected in Belgium.
Sales of chicken products have slumped by 30 to 50 percent across the nation and prices have plummeted in the past two weeks.
Farmers Union spokesman Wouter Wytynck said “the premature panic reaction from the consumer has pushed the price for chicken under production prices”.
This is considered a disaster for the Belgian poultry industry, which was previously hit by a dioxin scare in 1999 and bird flu concerns in 2003.
Farmers now receive 63 euro cents for a kilogram of chicken compared with 80 euro cents two weeks ago, newspaper ‘Het Nieuwsblad’ reported on Tuesday.
“And prices will fall further. Even if bird flu does not break through, the sector will suffer heavy losses,” Wytynck said.
“However, there is absolutely no reason to panic. Why is not clearly being said that Belgian poultry is okay?”
Despite the despairing question, the federal government is stepping up controls to ensure the avian bird flu does not take hold in Belgium.
Inspections at Zaventem Airport in Brussels have been tightened and any illegally imported birds from risk areas will be immediately slaughtered, newspaper ‘De Standaard’ reported.
Customs officials and the Federal Food Agency have intensified their co-operative arrangements. Customs officials will also be distributed with special suits, gloves and masks on Tuesday.
If the European Commission decides to ban import of wild and exotic birds on Tuesday, regular imports will cease, making the work for inspectors much easier.
Belgium has ordered poultry in risk areas to be kept inside, but has not imposed the measure nation-wide and is instead waiting on the European Commission lead.
However, the showing of pet birds has been banned and the organisation Formavet is running special training at the request of vets who want to know how to correctly diagnose bird flu.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Belgian news