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February 11, 2004   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
February 11, 2004

WASHINGTON (AP)-- Government and poultry industry officials hoped they could contain damage to export sales after confirmation Tuesday of a second Delaware chicken farm with bird flu.

The bird flu cases led seven nations, including some of America's largest export customers, to ban imports from the United States.

Annual poultry exports total more than $1.7 billion, about $1.4 billion of it in shipments of broiler chicken. Countries that have banned U.S. imports, including China and Japan, imported at least $245 million in U.S. broiler chicken in the past 11 months, said David Harvey, an Agriculture Department economist.

If the avian influenza does not spread farther, the impact of the bans could be short-lived, said Richard Lobb, a spokesman for the National Chicken Council, a producers and processors trade group.

But U.S. officials must show the world that they have the disease properly diagnosed and are eradicating it, Lobb said. In previous poultry disease outbreaks, foreign officials have ended bans quickly after they were assured that their flocks would be safe from contagion if they resumed imports, he said.

Agricultural attaches in U.S. embassies will provide their foreign counterparts with results of tests on the type of bird flu found in Delaware, said Agriculture Department spokeswoman Julie Quick. The results could confirm that the Delaware strain is not the type that devastates flocks, she said.

Delaware officials have said the outbreaks are not related to the virulent variety of avian influenza that is blamed for the deaths of at least 19 people in Vietnam and Thailand. The Asian bird flu also forced the slaughter of an estimated 50 million birds as authorities in the stricken countries worked to rein in the spread of the contagious disease.

Officials in Delaware also canceled all sales or auctions of farm equipment that could carry the disease to new sites.

If the disease could be confined to Delaware, then countries that have banned all U.S. imports might restrict their bans to Delaware birds, which comprise 3 percent of U.S. production, Harvey said. China, Poland, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea have banned all U.S. poultry. A ban by Russia, America's largest poultry export market, affects only imports from Delaware.

Delaware's first case was confirmed last week at an independent farm that produced live birds for the New York and New Jersey markets. The second was found about five miles away in a commercial broiler operation.

ALABAMA POULTRY EXPORTS totaled $209.7 million in 2002 according to the Alabama Agricultural Statistics Service and accounted for half of the state's total ag exports.

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