Bird flu leads to drop in exports from Maryland

25-10-2006 | | |

Ill-informed consumers who have stopped eating chicken because of bird flu fears are partly to blame for a significant drop in exports from Maryland, US, according to a poultry industry executive.

Poultry is the top product in Maryland agriculture, accounting for about 35 percent of the state’s US$565 million in farm sales during 2005.
Bill Satterfield of Delmarva Poultry Industry says that “foreign consumers thought they needed to stop buying chicken in order to protect themselves and their families.”
Even though the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain of avian influenza has never been found in the US, importing countries are reluctant to buy chicken from parts of the US that have reported low-pathogenic strains of the virus.
Exports account for about 15 percent of US chicken production. Although poultry processors in the Delmarva region are not big participants in the export market, they felt the impact of this decline, as well as a ripple effect in other industries, such as feed.
About 80 percent of the corn and soybeans grown in Maryland goes to poultry companies for use in chicken feed, according to state agriculture officials.
Another potential impact on feed prices for the poultry industry comes from the increased use of corn in the production of ethanol. The US Department of Agriculture has estimated that 20 percent of this year’s corn harvest will be used in ethanol production.
Satterfield said that the poultry industry expereinces good and bad years, but that people will continue to eat chicken.
“We produce a product that everyone needs – food,” he said.
Russia recently lifted its import ban on Maryland, after the bird flu strain discovered there was found to be low pathogenic.