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Avian Flu Forecast Worries Poultry Businesses

Posted October. 17, 2005 06:38,   


“I feel like dying.”

Those words were followed by sighs from Mr. Park (58), on October 16, who raises about 15,000 chickens on his poultry farm located in Samseong-myeon, Eumseong, Chungbuk Province, where avian flu was first reported in Korea in 2003.

“When the market price of chicken doesn’t even meet production costs, and the government is issuing an avian flu breakout forecast, I don’t know how I am supposed to live.”

With the issue of avian flu breakout forecast on October 14 all over Korea, poultry farms and related businesses are headed toward the worst situation. The prices of chicken and eggs are dropping everyday, and the sales of fried chicken and other business that involve chicken cooking are visibly decreasing.

Although it was a Sunday on October 16, preventive measures were being taken around Samseong-myeon such as disinfecting outside vehicles and sprinkling quicklime.

Park said, “Before stories about avian flu spread, the price of eggs was somewhere around 120 won per egg, but now it has fallen to 70 won, and I am worried until where it will drop.”

Mr. Lee (47), who lives in the vicinity and showed a worried expression, said, “Two years ago, there was an actual outbreak of avian flu and we had losses, but now I think people are making too much of a fuss out of an avian flu that hasn’t even occurred. When we can’t sell chicken at the right time, the prices for their feed are not cheap, and I don’t know how to deal with that.”

Mr. Jin (57), who owns a poultry farm in Buk-myeon, Cheonan, Chungnam Province, commented, “With the high demand for chicken gone with the summer, I was already concerned with the daily drop in chicken prices, but adding insult to injury, the forecast for avian flu is a big blow. If in fact avian flu breaks out, the only thing I can do is close down my farm.’

Although there are regional differences, in case of Chungnam Province, the price of chicken meat is 926 won per kg, which is lower that the 1,085 won that costs to produce it. The prices of chicken rose to a peak in May of this year up to 1,900 per kg, but after reaching 1,048 won on August 30, it has continued to fall.

On October 10 of last year, the price of 10 eggs was 1,325 won, but this year it is 860 won. The prices continued to plunge after Chuseok, and with the forecast of avian flu, it is expected to drop below production costs in the near future.

An official of the Chungnam Province said, “In case of chicken meat prices, it is normal for them to peak in summer, drop in September, and rebound in October, but this year due to the influence of avian flu, it is continuing to fall.”

Restaurants using chicken as ingredient are also gloomy.

Mr. Choi (46), who has run a fried chicken shop for three years in Cheongju, Chungbuk Province, said, “After news reports on avian flu went out, sales dropped by 20 to 30 percent. When there was an avian flu breakout two years ago I couldn’t sell anything, and I am worried that nightmare might recur.”

A worker at a Samgyetang restaurant (Korean chicken soup) in Daejeon said, “Customers have plunged by 40 to 50 percent. Most of the clientele asks if it is really OK to eat chicken.”

In contrast, businesses selling pork or black goats have had a relative rise in customers.

A worker at a noodle restaurant in Daejeon famous for its pork dishes commented, “Although the number of customers looking for meat is not the same as old times due the influence of well being and all that, it seems that we are having a few more people come in after the reports of avian flu.”

Jang-Ki Woo Myung-Hun Jee straw825@donga.com mhjee@donga.com