“Fearing bird flu, consumers have stopped eating poultry meat, resulting in a huge loss for our member companies,” said an official at the Beijing-based China Animal Agriculture Association (CAAA).
He added some farmers have even stopped chick hatching, because “the demand is so little”.
In Jiangsu province, north of Shanghai, the price of ducklings has fallen to Chinese Yuan Renminbi (CNY)4 (US$0.63) each from CNY5 in March, and the price of a chick is around CNY0.30, compared with CNY1.10 in March, according to the CAAA.
Since 9 April, H7N9 has been caught by 28 Chinese people, nine of whom have died. Facing this new potentially fatal disease, China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) has required the slaughter of all H7N9 infected livestock nationwide. So far, the ministry has sent teams to monitor and run tests in poultry farms and livestock markets in Shanghai, Jiangsu province, Zhejiang province (south of Shanghai), and Anhui province (to the west of the city), the four areas that are home to the most infected cases.
In Shanghai, where the nation’s first H7N9 patient was reported on 31 March, Chinese health workers have so far killed and burned 111,122 livestock in local poultry markets, including chicks, ducks and pigeons. Affected vendors will be compensated by the government, but the details of payments are still under discussion, according to the MOA’s Shanghai office.
Livestock markets have been shut down in many cities, including Shanghai, Suzhou, Nanjing and Hangzhou. In Shanghai, the local MOA office is discussing the possibility of permanently closing all three major livestock markets in the city.
Despite the chaos, business opportunities also loom. On 8 April, at a press conference held by the agriculture ministry, Sun Lei, its Shanghai director, said the H7N9 crisis probably could be an opportunity for sales of chilled poultry meat.
“Chinese traditionally like to eat fresh poultry meat, but it may be time to turn to chilled meat,” Sun said.