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March 7, 2012

 

Avian flu worries affect Taiwan's egg prices

 

 

Southern Taiwan's egg prices dropped slightly in Monday (Mar 5), the first business day after an outburst of the H5N2 strain of avian influenza that has resulted in the killing of 60,000 chickens from two poultry farms.

 

While the sale of chicken remained generally unaffected in Kaohsiung, the price of eggs in the port municipality dropped by TWD2 (US$0.07) to TWD 35 (US$1.2) per 600 grams.

 

The Kaohsiung Public Health Bureau called for citizens to avoid eating raw eggs or insufficiently cooked chicken, saying that the produce is perfectly safe as long as it is fully cooked.

 

In Pingtung County, further south from Kaohsiung, an executive of a county association of chicken farms said the average price of eggs was TWD29.5 (US$1) per 600 grams Monday, the same as last week, but he forecast that prices would fall the following day when the wholesale market opened.

 

Huang Ching-fu called for consumers not to panic over the latest H5N2 fears, saying that in principle, all eggs that consumers can buy on the market are safe to eat, based on the simple rule of thumb that birds tend not to lay if they are sick.

 

In Chiayi County, egg sales were down by roughly 20% Monday as a result of the H5N2 outbreak. H5N2 is a less virulent strain of bird flu than the H5N1 virus and does not infect humans through normal contact.

 

Lin Tu-an, chairman of the Chiayi County Association of Egg-laying Chicken Farmers, said the H5N2 virus is not as lethal to chicken farms as the psychological panic among consumers.

 

Hsu Tien-lai, director of the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine under the Council of Agriculture (COA), resigned a day earlier after H5N2 outbreaks were confirmed in chicken farms in Changhua and in the southern city of Tainan, which resulted in the culling of 53,000 birds and 4,500 birds, respectively. The COA was accused of delaying its announcement of the outbreaks, prompting Hsu's resignation.

 

In Changhua County, the "ground zero" of the latest H5N2 scourge, egg prices did not fluctuate much Monday, although the number of egg buyers declined noticeably.

 

In Yunlin County, also in southern Taiwan, county health officials confirmed that no chicken farms were found to have been affected.

 

The Yunlin County Association of Chicken Farms assessed that egg and chicken prices will dive upon the latest H5N2 outbreak, but will soon return to to normal.

 

In the capital of Taipei in northern Taiwan, meanwhile, prices of eggs and chicken remained stable Monday.

 

In related news, Hsu Kuei-sen, director of the COA's Animal Industry Department, said the H5N2 virus is highly pathogenic among birds and could deal a heavy blow to the country's poultry farms.

 

Chiang Wen-chuan, a department division chief, said that Taiwan's overall production of duck eggs could decline by 5% should exports of processed duck eggs be suspended due to the H5N2 outbreak.

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