02/11/04 — Wayne poultry leaders wait and see

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Wayne poultry leaders wait and see

By Staff and Wire
Published in News on February 11, 2004 2:04 PM

Tests confirmed avian flu on a second central Delaware farm, a surprise that creates a "serious situation" for the region's poultry industry, state agriculture officials announced Tuesday.

The discovery was sure to hurt efforts to lift bans by foreign countries on imports of U.S. poultry that were instituted in the past week.

Poultry producers in Wayne County say it is too early to tell how the ban will affect their business.

John Pike, director of operations at Goldsboro Milling Co., said it exports turkeys mainly to Taiwan, Mexico, Russia and some to South Korea. He said the ban could affect the company depending on if more bird flu is found outside of Delaware.

In several of those Asian countries they have a more severe and dangerous flu problem right now, so it would be hard to believe they would ban the poultry for too long, he added.

Sam Robertson, complex manager at Case Farms at Dudley, also said it is hard to predict how it would affect the company, which exports 20 percent of its poultry.

He said the ban should only apply to Delaware, since that is where the flu was found. However, if the flu problem spreads outside Delaware and more countries ban poultry from the entire United States, it could be a problem for the company, he added.

The chicken house in Deleware where the latest case was found was not one of 20 tested in a two-mile radius of the farm where the first flock tested positive last week. It was found in a commercial flock of roaster-type chickens in northern Sussex County, at least five miles away, according to a state agriculture department news release.

Tests on 20 chicken houses within two miles of the first flock were negative, the release said.

"This development is completely unexpected given the precautions we took, the investigation we made and the industry's expectations of this disease's behavior," Agriculture Secretary Michael T. Scuse said in the release.

"We will be taking immediate actions to contain this disease, but this is now a serious situation for the Delmarva poultry industry." Delmarva refers to Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.

In response, all sales of live poultry in Delaware, all sales or auctions of farm equipment and all farmer-and grower-related meetings have been canceled, the state agriculture department announced.

The disease was first found on a farm in southern Kent County operated by an independent grower who sold to the live bird market in New York City. State officials had immediately ordered the slaughter of 12,000 birds and began testing flocks within the two-mile radius of the infected site.

Even before the announcement about the second flock, China on Tuesday joined Poland, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea in banning U.S. poultry imports because of the previous discovery. Hong Kong had banned the import of live birds and poultry from Delaware only.

Russia, the single largest foreign market for U.S. poultry, had said Monday it was temporarily banning the import of most poultry products from Delaware.

Exports account for about 20 percent of the U.S. poultry industry.