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Bird Flu A Red Herring For Chinese Poultry Ban

They won’t be eating Manitoba turkey for Christmas dinner in China this year.

China last week banned poultry imports from Manitoba because of a November outbreak of avian influenza at a turkey farm north of Winnipeg.

But it’s a moot move because Manitoba doesn’t export turkey to China.

“This is really a bit of a non-event for us,” said a spokesperson for Granny’s Poultry, Manitoba’s only turkey processor. “Exports are only a very small part of our business anyway.”

Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz also minimized the Chinese ban.

“It’s a bit of a straw man,” Ritz said during a brief Dec. 17 stopover in Winnipeg. “The exports to China I would categorize as negligible.”

The Chinese ban affects poultry products from Manitoba in general, not just turkey. But again the effect is minimal because poultry is a supply-managed commodity aimed at satisfying only the domestic market.

Manitoba produced just over three million kg of chicken in 2009. Less than four per cent of the broiler chicken produced in the province is exported, according to a Manitoba Chicken Producers spokesperson.

Other foreign countries also imposed restrictions on Manitoba poultry because of the avian flu case.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Costa Rica has restricted bird imports from Manitoba and Guatemala is not admitting day-old chicks. Singapore placed a temporary restriction on poultry and poultry products from within a one-km area around the affected premises and required additional certification from unaffected areas. Japan suspended poultry and egg products from Manitoba, as well as shipments travelling through the province. The Philippines suspended imports of domestic and wild birds, their products, day-old chicks, eggs and semen.

The CFIA confirmed a case of low-pathogenic H5N2 bird flu Nov. 24 at a turkey breeder operation in the Rural Municipality of Rockwood. The CFIA destroyed over 8,000 birds at the farm and is overseeing the cleaning and disinfection of the premises. Two other poultry operations having contact with the infected farm were quarantined. Tests showed no other signs of the flu virus. Movement restrictions were lifted Dec. 16. [email protected]

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“It’sabitofastrawman.”

– GERRY RITZ

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