Flu Fears Hit Chicken Sales

RIYADH, 11 November 2005 — Fears of bird flu outbreak have hit chicken sales in Riyadh. All poultry retail shops, mainly manned by Bangladeshi, Asian or Arab expatriates, are experiencing a sharp decline in sales.

“Our sales have dropped by 15 percent and as a result we have cut down orders for live poultry and poultry products,” said Mobin Chowdhury, who runs a poultry shop in the city center, here. Chowdhury said that “the avian flu fears or a possible outbreak would hit the local poultry sector very badly and the losses would be in the vicinity of millions of riyals.”

Saudi Arabia produces an estimated 550,000 tons of chicken per year. An individual’s average consumption of broiler chicken in the Kingdom is 38 kg per year compared to 45 kg in the US and 20 kg in UK, according to a report published by the Saudi Cooperative Association of Poultry Producers (CAPP).

The birds weighing between 800 and 1,100 grams are generally in demand in the local market. At the regional level, poultry production was growing consistently until last month, when the bird flu scare started to tell on the growth.

Gradually, it led to a fall in consumption of poultry and poultry products. Many regional and international organizations have also cited huge losses in the wake of bird flu outbreak in countries which had been principal supplier of poultry and poultry products.

Referring to the drop in the demand, Shahaf Alam, an owner of 10 retail poultry shops, said: “I have seen at least 10 percent drop in sales of fresh chicken in Riyadh alone.

“This could be due to many factors, which include lack of awareness among people about the disease.

“No campaign has been launched so far either by the municipality or the Ministry of Health to educate people about the avian flu.”

He, however, pointed out that bird flu does not easily transmit from poultry to humans.

“The avian flu has scared consumers,” said Kishwar Parvez, a teacher, who prefers to prepare chicken dishes very often. She said that many of her friends and relatives were even avoiding poultry products like eggs or chicken rolls.

According to the World Health Organization, exposure risk to the virus is considered the highest during slaughter, butchering and preparation of poultry for cooking.

The WHO said there was no evidence that the disease could be transmitted through properly cooked poultry or eggs.

Veterinary authorities in the Kingdom are carrying out regular tests to determine whether chickens or birds were infected with bird flu virus. The Kingdom has also banned the import of all types of poultry into its territory.

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