May 8, 2015


US poultry hit by double whammy of bird flu and suspended exports

The US' current woes with the H5N1 have given its poultry sector some sleepless nights as the bird flu virus swept across 14 states in five months, affecting the lives of about 26 million birds.


In the words of the USDA, the pandemic is America's worst disease outbreak, a crisis that has prompted China, Mexico, Japan, Canada, Angola and Russia to suspend deliveries of poultry livestock and products from the States.


Vietnam is one of the latest countries to join in the ban.

With the US as one of its key suppliers, the country had significantly raise frozen poultry meat imports over the last few years. In fact, more than 34,000 tonnes of frozen chicken were imported during the first quarter of 2015, a 46% jump year-on-year, based on customs data.

Furthermore, the costlier option of raising and slaughtering chickens locally provides an impetus to import frozen poultry meat. 


Needless to say, the severity of the bird flu crisis means that the US poultry export trade to Vietnam has effectively grinded to a halt.


The Vietnamese poultry ban, imposed by the country's Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, includes deliveries of livestock, frozen and processed meat and eggs.


Still, the States finds consolation in the fact that shipments already purchased under pre-ban contracts, and on the way to Vietnam, will be permitted into the country albeit subjected under stricter quarantine inspections.


In recent developments, the US states of Minnesota and Wisconsin have already declared a state of emergency, with Iowa expected to follow suit after four fresh cases of bird flu were reported, according its governor, Terry Branstad.


A major effort is ongoing to combat the bird flu threat, with a campaign of quarantining affected farms and culling livestock. Meanwhile, veterinarians worry that the disease had been transmitted between farms, said Bill Hartmann, the executive director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.


US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, upset over China's ban on its poultry exports affecting even states left untouched by bird flu, demands that the country lifts suspension and resumes the trade.


"(Why) would you say 'you can't buy poultry from Virginia or North Carolina?'" questioned Vilsack on Beijing's decision, according to Reuters.


In a tit-for-tat diplomacy, Chinese officials stated that the lifting of the suspension will only be given due consideration if the US discusses its ban on China's chicken meat deliveries which have been blocked into the States over food safety concerns.


"I think it's different," Vilsack argued, claiming that the Chinese ban is based on different grounds, namely animal-welfare issue.

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