January 30, 2004



New Zealand May Benefit From Asian Bird Flu


New Zealand may gain from the bird flu epidemic across Asia as countries search for alternative chicken supplies.


Tegel Food managing director Bruce Scott said there is potential for breeders to export four times current levels of breeding stock.


The "excellent health" of chicken flocks here, and strict biosecurity rules created a valuable opportunity in the current disease scare.


"These are absolute positives for our consumers in terms of product confidence, but they also give our industry the potential to supply export markets," Mr Scott said.


Despite a high kiwi dollar, he said there were "valuable niche opportunities" for the industry to expand its exports of high quality breeding stock.


"We are not in the big league with countries like Brazil and the USA in terms of volumes, but our livestock has an excellent reputation internationally, and we are now responding to a steady stream of export inquiries."


That New Zealand has never had an outbreak of any avian diseas e was due to careful management rather than luck.


"We owe these opportunities to the vigilance of both the Ministry of Agriculture and the industry itself over the years. As New Zealanders, we know instinctively our biosecurity efforts are everything, and we cannot let our guard down."


New Zealand's poultry industry has been on high alert since the outbreak in Thailand, China, Vietnam and Indonesia, Laos, Japan, Cambodia, South Korea, Taiwan and Pakistan. At least eight people have died from the virus, which can be spread from direct contact with infected birds, and millions of livestock culled.


The Poultry Industry Association says the biggest risks here are from migrating birds or overseas travellers carrying the virus.


The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) is urging farmers here to be vigilant and keep all uninvited visitors away from poultry stocks.