Iraq extends chicken import ban, as bird flu cases spread


Iraq, one of the world's top chicken meat buyers, extended to three more European countries a ban on poultry imports in the latest trade curb caused by bird flu outbreaks in countries from Chile to China.

Iraq - the fifth-ranked broiler meat importer, with purchases of 670,000 tonnes last year, according to the US Department of Agriculture – said it would no longer accept imports of live and frozen poultry imports from Finland, Serbia and Britain.

The Middle Eastern country, which itself last year suffered its first outbreak in 10 years of the highly pathogenic H5N1 bird flu virus, had already banned imports from more than 20 countries, since more than a year ago barring buy-ins of French poultry products.

The extension of the curbs represents the latest in a series of trade disruptions caused by outbreaks of various bird flu strains, the spread of which is seen as having been encouraged by seasonal bird migrations.

In the UK, H5N8 bird flu was on Monday confirmed at a southern English swannery – the same strain as reported over the weekend in a flock of chickens and ducks in northern England, and identified too in a Welsh backyard flock last week, and at a turkey farm in eastern England last month.

Chinese deaths

Other countries which have reported recent bird flu cases include the Czech Republic and Taiwan, which on Sunday reported an outbreak at a chicken farm, prompting the extermination of more than 2,600 chickens birds.

China last week reported its second death in two weeks from bird flu, of the H7N9 variety, when a 62-year man died in Hong Kong, to which he had travelled from mainland China.

Guangzhou, in southern China, said on Monday it was to ban trade in live and slaughtered poultry for three-day periods during January to March in a bid to stop the spread of bird flu, following restrictions in Anhui, Fujian and Jiangsu provinces.

South Korean epidemic

But bird flu has been a particular problem in South Korea, where more than 31m birds have been slaughtered at farms in an effort to quell an outbreak which began in November.

The cull has cost the country about 17% of its chicken flock, and 28% of farmed ducks.

The country is in talks over reopening to US exports of shell eggs, which were banned after a US outbreak of bird flu in 2015.

Feed implications?

Meanwhile, Argentina has suspended bird and poultry imports from Chile, which has discovered cases of bird flu it has described as of "low pathogenicity, meaning this case poses little risk to animal health".

However, the disease is of concern too to grain markets, given the potential for culls, if widespread enough, to curtail consumption of poultry feed.

"Bird flu concerns continue to put a damper on feed demand but we believe the trade has yet to really see the impact on this event until evidence global feedgrain trade slows," said Terry Reilly at Chicago broker Futures International.


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