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Bird flu causes financial squeeze for Chinese poultry companies

Bird flu has prompted one of China’s largest poultry breeders to switch to a new broiler breed and expand its sales of chilled poultry meat.

Releasing third quarter results this week, Guangdong Wen’s Foodstuff Group Co Ltd reported a 63% drop in profits for the first nine months of the year, adding that the H7N9 virus had posed a serious impact on its business, particularly in the first half of the year.

Nearly 300 people have died from the zoonotic H7N9 strain of bird flu in China over the past year, which is considerably higher than in previous periods.

As a result, Chinese authorities have shut down live bird markets across the country in a bid to stop the spread of the disease, which has had a huge effect on China’s traditional market-place sales of traditional yellow-feathered chickens.

Reuters reported that Wen’s, which made about a quarter of its sales from poultry meat in the first half of the year, had changed the type of broilers it was selling to better suit more professional breeding, changing consumer demand and slaughtering practices. In the past, it has focused on yellow-feathered birds.

Sales in the third quarter fell by just 8% year-on-year to $2.12bn as a result of lower poultry and pork prices.

Earlier this month, the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences Harbin Veterinary Research Institute found that the H7N9 virus has mutated, making the infection of animals significantly easier, especially through the air.

Chen Hualan, director of the National Avian Influenza Reference Laboratory, told Xinhua News Agency that: “Our study indicated that the new H7N9 mutations are lethal to chickens and pose an increased threat to humans.”

Photo

  • Photo: Jan Willem Schouten

    Photo: Jan Willem Schouten

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