TAIWAN - Poultry sales in Taiwan have fallen sharply since the first outbreak of avian influenza.
While geese have been hit by the virus, so too have sales of all poultry in the country but there are concerns that supplies may be tight for the New Year.
New avian flu strains H5N2 and H5N8 have so far led to the culling of more than 40,000 geese and ducks in Taiwan, according to Channel News Asia on 14 January. Of the 86 poultry farms being tested, 39 have been confirmed with infected poultry.
While most of the infected poultry are geese, sales of poultry – including chicken – are taking a hit.
One of the chicken vendors said sales have dropped by 80 per cent.
Since the outbreak of new avian flu strains H5N2 and H5N8, many Taiwanese have stopped buying poultry. The demand for poultry, however, could rebound very quickly ahead of the Lunar New Year, if the spread of the avian influenza can be contained within a month, as the Council of Agriculture (COA) has vowed.
However, that has raised concerns about a possible supply shortage since it takes about three months to raise a goose before it is ready for slaughter.
More than 100,000 infected geese and ducks have died or have been culled since the outbreak. Another 240,000 are being tested for H5 strains. If the final results show that they are all infected, more than 10 per cent of Taiwan's 1.77 million geese would need to be destroyed.
Consumer demand for geese during the Lunar New Year holidays is regularly around 300,000 to 400,000 birds, three times the average monthly consumption. This sounds like a big number, but officials involved in the sector said the actual impact would still be limited and manageable.
Ju Ching Cheng, the deputy director of COA's Animal Department Industry, said: "We slaughtered 300 million chickens a year, 5.5 million geese and 30 million ducks. Overall poultry supply should be sufficient."
Last week, reports Channel News Asia, more than 120,000 chickens infected with H5N2 virus were culled in Pingtung of southern Taiwan. Agricultural officials said the culling would not affect Taiwan's chicken supply since those were raised for egg production only, and the virus was a low-pathogenic strain, which is different from the new H5N2 found in geese and ducks.
Authorities said the new strain could be a hybrid of H5N8 and H5N2 strains, which were found in South Korea last year, and the H5N2 subtype discovered four years ago in China's northeastern Jilin Province.
TheMeatSite News Desk