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Poultry industry hit hard

The food industry makes provisions after poultry produce from countries infected with bird flu is banned

Poultry producers have complained of sales falling by up to 20% due to bird flu concerns, according to Dr Hisham Fahidi, a veterinary specialist and consultant for the avian flu emergency committee in Dubai.

Despite Jordan confirming its first case of the H5N1 strain of the virus in domesticated turkeys late last month, and a number of human deaths announced in China, Turkey and Egypt, Dr Fahidi remains positive about the UAE, and is adamant that the catering industry and the public have nothing to fear if good cooking and hygiene are practised.

“Chefs should be able to prepare themselves. They should know the source of their products and know that it is from a reputable origin. People working in the catering industry should stick with their usual practises of washing utensils in hot water and wearing gloves,” said Dr Fahidi.

However, Dubai Municipality has implemented preventative measures, by monitoring other countries, taking precautions around sanctuaries and lakes, and employing the co-operation of the public in order to form an effective shield.

Seeking to protect citizens’ health, the Ministry for the Environment has placed a ban on poultry and egg imports from countries where bird flu cases have been recorded. The decision stipulates that imports from countries free of the virus must be escorted with veterinary health certificates.

With a ban on poultry from infected countries, France is one of the most affected. It is the world’s fourth largest poultry exporter and has almost US $11 billion in turnover. French chicken, with 46% of its sales in the UAE alone, has been heavily affected by the outright ban on its products. Put in place at the end of February, poultry products from France have been banned in the UAE, Oman, Yemen and, more recently, Kuwait.

“French poultry producers are working together to inform consumers that French cooked chicken is safe to eat, but the ban proves this is difficult to do,” said Eric Santier, managing director, Sopexa.

India is the fifth largest producer of eggs in the world and has nearly 500 million poultry. Prohibiting egg imports from countries like Egypt and India has already led to price increases of up to 30%.

“The day the ban was posted all my chefs went into a state of depression. We called all our suppliers and bought stock for at least four months,” commented Anston Fivaz, executive chef, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina.

Chef Anston also said the hotel is now in the process of sourcing out of Australia and America, with the issue being a concern for its signature restaurants — which had been using organic French chicken — now removed from menus due to the shortage.

However, the bird flu epidemic is also affecting consumer confidence, with restaurants also seeing a decline in chicken dishes being ordered.

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