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Chicken sales strong despite bird flu



At major markets in the capital city such as Hom Market in Hai Ba Trung District, Xanh market in Hoang Mai District and Phuong Mai market in Dong Da District, poultry products still sell as usual.

The price of live chickens ranges between VND130,000-150,000 (US$4.7-7.1) per kilo.

While some provinces have reported cases of avian influenza A/H5N1 in humans and the number of people infected with deadly A/H7N9 virus in neighbouring China keeps increasing, many consumers point out that the capital has so far been unaffected.

Le Hong Hanh from Bach Khoa ward, Hai Ba Trung District, said she still bought chicken products for her family every day.

"Chicken and fish are my family's favourite foods. Besides, Ha Noi is still free from bird flu," she said.

Asked about the risk of buying rejected chicken from China, Hanh said she often bought poultry products at familiar shops, trusting that her experience would help her distinguish between quality products and more dubious ones.

Another customer, Nguyen Ngoc Linh from Cau Giay District, said the best way to avoid bird flu was to buy poultry products at the supermarket.

"I heard about the epidemic in China and the risk of bird flu in Viet Nam. But those events don't mean that we should stop eating poultry products. Thinking about what to serve for the next meal often puzzles housewives like me. Chicken products are useful because they can be cooked many different ways," she said.

Choosing quarantined products from prestigious shops was a good strategy, Linh added.

Like customers, poultry product traders ignore bird flu risks.

An average of 30,000-50,000 chickens are sold each day at Ha Vi Market in suburban Thuong Tin District, one of the biggest poultry wholesale markets in Ha Noi, according to the district's animal health station.

Businesses at the market often import chicken from other localities such as Yen Bai, Thanh Hoa and Bac Giang provinces.

Although local authorities spread information about the risk of avian influenza A/H7N9 to raise public awareness, one seller who has worked in the market for more than 20 years told Tin tuc (News) newspaper that she had no idea about what was going on.

"I don't know where the epidemic is. No one here is infected," she said.

Nguyen Le Nga, who works at the Thuong Tin animal health station, said sellers at the market had been supplied with soap to clean their hands – although not all of them used it.

The situation is the same at retail markets in the city, where sellers are frequently willing to slaughter live chickens without protective tools or gloves.

Although the country has not yet recorded any A/H7N9 cases in either humans or animals, the health ministry warned that people should still take the necessary precautions.

Meanwhile, authorities in central Quang Nam Province's Hoi An town urged residents living on nearby Cham Island to protect the local population of salaganes, a type of swallow, amid increasing concern about the ongoing threat of the A/H5N1 virus.

Vice chairman of the city's People's Committee Truong Van Bay confirmed yesterday that the islanders had been warned about the possibility of the infection reaching the island, 15km off the coast of Cua Dai beach, after 5,000 dead salanges further down the coast in Ninh Thuan Province were found to be infected with the virus.

As well as threatening the bird population on the island, authorities are worried about the potentially devastating consequences if the A/H5N1 virus reached the mainland.

"The birds are valuable, so many people try to bring them to the city for breeding. We are concerned that they could potentially bring the virus with them, so we have warned people to be vigilant," said Bay.

The nests of the bird are collected by the islanders and sold as a delicacy in local cuisine.

Le Binh, head of the nest collection team on the Cham Islands, admitted that the danger of bird flu spreading was made more likely by city households breeding and raising the birds, which was out of his control.

"For a few years people have bred the birds in the city themselves without asking for permission because it is a lucrative business. It is illegal, but widespread," said Le Dinh Tuong, Hoi An's deputy head of the economic office.

Flocks of salaganes on the Cham Islands bring an average revenue of VND1.7 billion (US$80,000) from bird nest sales each year, so mainlanders have caught on to the business potential of raising them.

Rather than targeting illegal breeders, city authorities have instead urged them to keep close watch on their birds and make sure they meet hygiene standards. The authorities must be informed if any bird dies.

Nguyen Minh Son, a breeder in Hai Chau district, said he felt anxious after hearing of the mass bird deaths in Ninh Thuan.

"It took four years to raise a flock of salaganes at great expense. Bird nest collection brings me a good income of VND30 million ($1,400) each month," Son said. "We ourselves regularly clean and spray the nests with antiseptic. We hope the birds are safe."