The H7N9 avian influenza outbreak that has killed 20 people and infected more than 100 people in four provinces in China is also wreaking havoc on the poultry industry on a national scale, according the official Xinhua news agency.
The director of the poultry association in south China’s Guangdong Province estimated that Wen’s Food Group Co. Ltd., one of the largest poultry producers in China, has lost 20 million yuan ($3.2 million) in a single day during the crisis.
He called the latest outbreak “the worst in history,” the agency reported. The poultry industry lost at most 5 million yuan ($801,077) per company during the 2003 SARS outbreak, the H5N1 crisis in 2005 and the H1N1 infection in 2009, according to Xinhua.
Drastic declines in poultry prices and consumption caused Wen’s Food Group to lose up to 100 million yuan ($16.2 million) between April 1 and April 14, with the total loss expected to hit 150 million yuan ($24.3 million) this month alone, the general manager of the company’s branch in Zhejiang Province told Xinhua.
Some companies reportedly have been trying to get financing, but aren’t sure they can cover the financial gap caused by the drop in demand.Quite apart from the damage done to an industry employing millions, millions more will have to do with less animal protein, or with other forms of it...perhaps the dubious pork that would otherwise have ended up in the local river as too diseased to sell.
In 1983, a Chinese colleague explained to me why everyone in China took a xiuxi, a siesta, after lunch: "We don't eat enough protein to get through the day without a nap." Better-fed relatives in Hong Kong thought their cousins up the Pearl River in Guangdong were a bunch of layabouts.
But it was sheer malnutrition behind that noonday sleepiness, and my family and I soon learned to enjoy a nap as well. So the economic and political consequences of H7N9 could undo 30 years of nutritional progress, and that would indeed be a major crisis.