Indian Zoo Stops Feeding Chickens to Hawks on Bird Flu Fears
Chickens on a poultry farm. (Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg)

Indian Zoo Stops Feeding Chickens to Hawks on Bird Flu Fears

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A state-run zoo in India has stopped feeding chickens to birds such as hawks, eagles and owls as bird flu outbreaks spread to more than 10 states in the country.

Serological tests of a brown fish owl, which died at the National Zoological Park in New Delhi, confirmed that the bird was infected with the H5N8 virus, according to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. Birds in captivity at the zoo have been isolated, it said over the weekend.

More deaths of crows, herons, swans, pigeons and poultry from avian influenza have been confirmed in the states of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Delhi, the animal husbandry ministry said in a separate statement late Sunday. Culling operations continue, it added.

Indian Zoo Stops Feeding Chickens to Hawks on Bird Flu Fears

The outbreaks in the world’s second-biggest egg producer threaten the poultry industry, which is recovering after prices slumped last year on speculation that chickens could spread the coronavirus. The $14 billion industry directly or indirectly employs 5 million people and supports 25 million producers.

The federal government has urged some affected states to reconsider their decisions to ban poultry sales and advised them to allow sellers to source chickens from non-infected areas. “Consumption of well-cooked chicken and eggs is safe for humans,” it said, adding that consumers should ignore rumors.

The outbreak has slashed broiler chicken demand by about 30% to 7 million kilograms per day in January from a month earlier, according to Crisil, the Indian unit of S&P Global. The overall revenue of the sector could drop 30%-40% this month on lower volumes and a 20%-30% slump in wholesale prices, it said in a note.

However, the price decline could be temporary, it said. “In recent past, the impact of such outbreaks has been temporary due to swift implementation of testing, culling and containment protocols by the authorities. Fears against chicken consumption do not last for more than a few weeks as the infection rate abates.”

Venky’s India Ltd., which reported about half of its revenue from poultry sales in 2019-20, said on Monday that the organized poultry sector has not reported any positive bird flu case so far. Shares of Venky’s dropped 1%, while agribusiness company Godrej Agrovet Ltd. fell 1.1%.

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