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Bird Flu Affects Trade and Consumption


A UN agency says the bird flu outbreaks in Africa, Europe and the Middle East have cause dramatic swings in poultry consumption, increased trade bans and sharp price declines.

The Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, says unfounded fears about how the disease is transmitted have taken their toll. Nancy Morgan is a commodity specialist for the FAO. From Rome, she spoke to my colleague Joe De Capua about the effects of bird flu on trade and consumption:

“We recently revised our consumption figures down from 2006. We had early estimates in January and we recently reduced them about three million tons. So, basically it went from 84 million tons to about 81 million tons. What happens then…depends a lot on how consumers view imported versus domestically produced product. But we have reduced our trade prospects by about a half a million tons…. The EU is a very large exporter of poultry. They usually export about a million tons a year. And so, that’s basically trade bans on European products. And the consumer crisis is manifesting itself in changing prices for poultry meat, which has gone down. In the US, export prices fore the type of product that the US exports have gone down 50%, indicating that basically there’s a real consumer crunch and people aren’t importing product as much as they did last year.”

Morgan calls the declines “very dramatic, especially for the poultry industry, which has over the last 15 years has probably grown faster in terms of consumption and trade than any other agricultural product.” Asked how the situation is affecting Africa, the FAO commodity specialist says, “I guess it’s difficult to tell in Africa…when you look generally, 80% of poultry (production) is in the backyard. But if you look at Nigeria, Nigeria probably has one of the more structured commercial industries. Approximately 40% of their product comes from commercial operations, which are targeted to urban consumers.”

However, she calls the situation for the backyard poultry producer “worrisome.” The FAO says about 200 million chickens have been culled or died of bird flu since the onset of the disease in late 2003.