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Poultry sales in cities hit by outbreak fears
By Wu Chong and Lu Chang (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-29 06:25

Poultry markets in Beijing and Shanghai have suffered from sluggish business this week as a result of fears over bird flu.

Daily sales at Guantang - Shanghai's largest poultry wholesale market - dropped nearly 80 per cent to around 20,000 as compared with usual business.

This has forced vendors to slash prices in order to attract customers.

"The price for a home-raised chicken has halved to less than 10 yuan (US$1.2) per kilogram," said Wang Baorong, the market's general manager.

Customer He Miao said people now prefer prepared chickens sold at large supermarkets, which they think are "safer."

The World Health Organization believes people can only become ill after coming into contact with chicken droppings. There is no established case that suggests the virus could be spread by eating an infected bird.

Business has also been hit in Beijing. However, officials pointed out that the city's markets do not import live birds from provinces with reported cases of bird flu.

"My income has been cut in half since the bird flu panic started," said Xu Min, a fowl retailer at Wanziju agricultural trade market. Xu, who used to import about 150 birds a day from Tianjin, said she has had to cut this figure by more than 50 per cent.

Customer Liu Wei said he was not worried about bird flu, as he believes the capital's markets are well run.

However, he noted that once a single case of bird flu is reported in Beijing, he will stop buying any chicken or duck, either living or prepared.

But concern over bird flu does not seem to have had any impact on sales of pet birds in Beijing.

Fan Guirong, a bird seller for more than 10 years at the capital's Guanyuan Bird Market, said she has not noticed any fluctuations in business.

But almost all traders in the market have taken steps to ensure that their shops and birdcages are cleaner.

(China Daily 10/29/2005 page1)

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