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Avian Flu Halves Manitoba Chicken Exports

Acase of avian influenza in a turkey flock north of Winnipeg has had a backlash effect on Manitoba’s chicken industry.

Chicken exports have been cut in half as a result of import restrictions on Manitoba poultry because of the AI outbreak last November, Manitoba Chicken Producers reports.

Manitoba grows roughly five per cent of its chicken output for export during each eight-week production cycle. Between 330,000 and 350,000 kg of the 6.4 million kg (eviscerated) of chicken produced in a cycle is sold outside Canada.

Exports were down 50 per cent for January and February. They are expected to be off by 40 per cent during March and April, said Wayne Hiltz, MCP general manager.

Fifteen countries, including the European Union, placed varying restrictions on Manitoba poultry products after the Nov. 18 discovery of H5N2 avian influenza in a turkey breeder barn in the RM of Rockwood.

Taiwan and the Philippines closed their borders to Manitoba poultry meat, although the Philippines does accept pasteurized egg products.

Singapore only restricts imports from within a one-km area around the affected premises.

Between 50 and 60 of Manitoba’s 118 registered chicken farmers regularly produce meat for export every eight-week period, Hiltz said.

He said processors have reduced their slaughter-for- export requirements and have had to find alternate markets for some chicken meat. Manitoba exports mostly dark meat.

But foreign import restrictions will not have a drastic effect on chicken storage stocks, which are under control after being burdensomely high some years ago, said Hiltz.

MCP hopes exports will return to normal in early May. Cleanup and disinfection at the affected turkey barn wrapped up at the end of January. Products are cleared for shipment 90 days after that.

As to whether it’ll be business as usual, Hiltz was noncommittal.

“There’s always the political side of it,” he said.

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