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The Warsaw Voice » Business » December 19, 2007
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Bird Flu Hits Poultry Breeders
December 19, 2007 By A.R.    
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25 million hectoliters was how much beer Polish consumers bought between January and mid-December, up by 12 percent from a year earlier.

As bird flu hits, Poland's poultry breeders are counting their losses. So far four hotbeds of bird flu have been detected in Poland, all of them in the central region of Mazovia. In the Wielkopolska and Warmia-Mazuria regions, infected eggs reached stores. The country's health authorities have told the public that human health is not at risk, as frying and cooking kills the bird flu virus. Still, the bird flu scare has hurt demand for poultry.

Bird flu is "first of all a serious economic problem," Agriculture Minister Marek Sawicki said in mid-December, adding that the poultry sector employs tens of thousands of people. Poultry farms nationwide produce a total of over 1 million tons of poultry per year, worth zl.3.5-4 billion calculated by the price at which it is bought from breeders. Poland's poultry exports exceed 500 million euros per year.

Economists say there is no reason to panic for now because around 7,000 farms produce poultry nationwide, while bird flu has only been detected on a few farms. No more than 50 or so farms are located within the high risk zone. Still, the outbreak of the disease has led to significant losses, which Sawicki says run into "a few million zlotys" for the time being. Sawicki added that breeders hit by bird flu would receive compensation if their flocks were slaughtered. The biggest problem are losses incurred by meat processing companies and retailers, he said.

Poultry slaughterhouses and meat companies have reduced their orders for poultry from the high-risk region and the problem has also affected other farms as in many locations slaughterhouses are paying breeders 10-15 percent less for live poultry. Retailers are taking advantage of this trend. Rajmund Paczkowski, head of the National Poultry Breeding Council, says many retailers have secured discounts of 5-10 percent.

Meanwhile, the European Commission has extended its ban on Polish poultry exports from the high-risk zones by another two weeks, until mid-January. Nina Papadoulaki, a spokeswoman for the EU health commissioner, said Dec. 10 that because a new hotbed of bird flu had been found in Poland, the European Commission would also extend its ban in terms of the area covered. EU law prohibits countries hit by bird flu from exporting poultry and poultry products to other EU member states from contamination and high-risk zones.
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