Bird flu commotion caused to bring Russian poultry market down

The bird flu hysteria may eventually generate another one – the mad cow disease

It became known yesterday that the European Union had barred the import of live farm birds from Russia's Siberia. The decision was made in connection with the recent confirmation of a bird flu outburst in Russia. The current growing epidemic of the dangerous disease has already made EU members close import of live birds and poultry from Romania, there scientists had discovered a certain mutation of the virus, which was found to be dangerous to humans. Bird flu in Russia

The news will only add more fuel to the fire of the unhealthy commotion caused by the disease in Russia. In spite of the fact that there are no reasons to panic, it seems that someone has been stirring up the hysteria around the supposedly uninhibited epidemic of deadly avian flu, market specialists say.

”There is no need to be too dramatic about the current situation. The spreading of the disease has been localized in Russia,” the Minister for Agriculture of Russia, Aleksey Gordeyev said.

The subject of bird flu surfaced in Russia in the summer of 2005, when thousands of farm birds were destroyed in the Chelyabinsk, Tyumen, Omsk and Altay regions of Russia after several occurrences of bird flu. It has been recently reported that the illness reached the central territory of Russia, very close to Moscow.

Local authorities took urgent measures to control the situation in all of the above-mentioned incidents. Several of the previously quarantined areas of Siberia have been released of medical restrictions already. That is why it is rather surprising to see the European Commission arresting the import of Siberian poultry.

”This is an artificially caused commotion, from which someone obviously derives profits,” the director of the Russian Poultry Farm Union, Galina Bobyleva told Pravda.Ru.

The chairman of the agricultural committee of the Federation Council, Sergei Lisovsky, shares the opinion: “The disease is known for more than a hundred years already. I think that Western importers of poultry are trying to bring fears on the market taking into consideration the growing Russian poultry farming. It is a matter of competition on the market of poultry,” Lisovsky told Interfax Thursday.

”No one thought anything about bird flu before the middle of the current year. Everyone was simply dividing our market disregarding local producers. However, when it became known last year that Russia could turn the import of poultry down completely in three or four years, they considered it necessary to put an end to the growth of the Russian poultry farming and decrease the investment attraction of the industry,” the specialist said.

”About 200 birds died in a Russian village, but all TV channels report about the incident as if an A-bomb blew up over there. This intimidation makes Russian people stop buying the Russian product. A lot of people may lose their jobs as a result of the bird flu commotion,” Galina Bobyleva said.

According to Bobyleva, there is no point in talking about the epidemic of bird flu. “Flu is a common disease. Furthermore, farmers have toughened sanitary requirements considerably. 

Bobyleva is certain that the massive loss of birds will not affect the general situation on the market negatively. “We currently make about 1,5 million tons of poultry at present. The population's share in this number is very small,” said she.

The EU's decision to ban the import of Siberian poultry will not lead to lamentable consequences for Russia, experts say. “It would be better for the Russian government to bar the import of European products. We would be able to recreate the national production entirely then,” Elena Bobyleva said.

According to Sergei Lisovsky, the bird flu virus can live for only two or three hours under direct sunlight. In addition, the virus decomposes at the temperature of 75 degrees above zero; any thermal treatment kills the virus instantly.

Bird flu has already brought 12 million rubles of damage to the Russian poultry industry. The disease has killed over 12 thousand birds, 144,268 birds were destroyed with a view to stop the infection from spreading.

It is noteworthy that the bird flu hysteria may eventually generate another one – the mad cow disease. Several outbursts of this dangerous ailment have been registered in nine settlements of the Far East of Russia.

Sergei Malinin

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Author`s name Olga Savka