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UPDATED: 08:28, March 01, 2006
Bird flu jeopardizes global poultry trade, FAO says
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Recent avian influenza outbreaks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have caused dramatic swings in poultry consumption, increased trade bans and sharp price declines, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said here on Tuesday.

The UN agency expects poultry consumption shocks this year in many countries in Europe, Middle East, and Africa that have been hit by avian influenza. As unfounded fears of disease transmission reduce consumption and imports, lower domestic prices are forecast to limit production growth.

"A steady erosion of previously expected gains in per caput poultry consumption will likely push down global poultry consumption in 2006, currently estimated at 81.8 million tonnes, nearly 3 million tonnes lower than the previous 2006 estimate of 84.6 million tonnes," said FAO commodity specialist Nancy Morgan.

At the onset of avian influenza outbreaks in early 2004, lagging consumption in Asia and the loss of export markets for regional supplies led to an 8 percent decline in international trade. Up until recently, international poultry prices had been driven up by over 30 percent because of declining exportable supplies.

Developments in 2006 indicate a very different market environment. Poultry prices are expected to continue declining, threatening industry profitability around the world and household livelihood and rural employment opportunities in developing countries, FAO said.

In Europe, consumption shocks are ranging from a dramatic 70 percent decline in Italy in mid-February to 20 percent in France and 10 percent in northern Europe. These responses are similar to the European situation in late 2005 when widespread consumer concerns about bird flu outbreaks contributed to an annual one percent consumption drop in 15 countries in the European Union.

In Africa, consumers in affected countries, such as Egypt and Nigeria, are moving away from poultry and egg products as are consumers in surrounding non-affected countries. In India reports of consumption drops of 25 percent have caused domestic prices to fall 12-13 percent, implying lower production prospects.

Sharply reduced international poultry prices are raising uncertainty among exporters about trade prospects in 2006. As consumers look for alternatives to poultry, global trade prospects will likely erode from the 10 percent gains witnessed in 2005. FAO 's global poultry trade projection for 2006 has been revised down 500,000 tonnes from the previous estimate of 8.6 million tonnes, according to FAO.

Source: Xinhua

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