Title : Thailand insists poultry industry free from bird flu
Date : 20 January 2004 1848 hrs (SST)
URL : http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/southeastasia/view/67156/1/.html
BANGKOK : Thailand insists its poultry industry is free from the bird flu virus that has hit Vietnam and several other Asian nations.
As Asia's largest poultry exporter, it said overseas sales had not been drastically affected.
But local poultry vendors were up in arms, as many Chinese-Thais shy away from eating chickens and ducks after an outbreak of bird cholera in the kingdom.
Thai officials insist that the nearly 900,000 chickens killed over the past few months was the result of bird cholera, and not bird flu.
Despite calls by some Asian countries to ban Thai poultry as a precaution, they said there had been no drastic drop in poultry exports.
Newin Chidchob, Deputy Agriculture Minister, said: "The European Union has confirmed its satisfaction in Thai poultry exports. They are confident in our quality and safety standards."
The European Union is Thailand's second largest market for chicken exports.
But while exports may be doing well, local demand for poultry products has fallen sharply.
So for lunch, Thailand's cabinet members decided to prove that they are safe to eat by enjoying a poultry feast.
Ten types of dishes, ranging from chicken satay to roast duck, were served right after the weekly cabinet meeting.
Officials hope the gesture will bring back confidence in poultry products, which saw sales plummeting after news of the local bird cholera and regional bird flu broke out.
But many said the reassurances had come too late.
Poultry vendors are the ones who are suffering as sales of chickens and ducks, traditionally used during Lunar New Year celebrations, have fallen by at least 70 percent.
"The chicken disease was all over the news for weeks. Now, just before the Lunar New Year, they are saying it is safe. It is too late!"
This year, Thais of Chinese decent are turning to seafood instead.
Fish, prawns, and crabs have been selling like hotcakes as many find alternatives to their traditional favourites. - CNA