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Bird flu brings windfall for businesses

English.news.cn   2013-04-22 20:02:37            

BEIJING, April 22 (Xinhua) -- A new strain of bird flu that has been spotted across China has brought vegetable dealer Xu Jialiang mixed feelings.

For Xu, who has been selling veggies for 20 years in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, the virus is a cause for concern, but also a commercial opportunity.

"Cabbage that was once left to rot has become a hit," said Xu, adding that he recently sold more than 50 tonnes of cabbage in a single day, double the amount he was selling just two months ago.

"People have become more reluctant to eat poultry, so vegetables have become much more popular," he said.

The Wuhan municipal bureau of commodity pricing said vegetable prices have surged since the end of March.

The first human H7N9 infection was reported in late March. A total of 102 cases have been reported to date, resulting in 20 deaths.

The poultry-raising industry, restaurants that sell poultry and even producers of shuttlecocks, which are made using bird feathers, have been impacted by the virus.

Figures from the China Animal Agriculture Association showed that direct economic losses for broiler chicken breeders have exceeded 3.7 billion (593 million U.S. dollars).

However, other sectors have been boosted by the virus's arrival. In addition to vegetable vendors, sellers of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) have also profited.

At the Zhangshu TCM Wholesale Market, a major TCM market in east China's Jiangxi Province, the purchase price of processed isatis root surged from 13 yuan per kilo to 22 yuan after health experts claimed that the root can prevent infection.

Lei Da, head of the purchase department at Zhangshu Tianqitang TCM Co., Ltd., said processed honeysuckle, which some have claimed can prevent bird flu, sold out after the infections were reported.

Lei said the company is watching the status of the epidemic closely to decide whether it will increase its stores of the two items.

Insurance companies are also using the virus as an opportunity to boost income. Ping An Insurance, one of China's largest insurance companies, is selling bird flu insurance that offers 20,000 yuan in compensation if an insurant is confirmed to have become infected. Other companies, such as Taikang Life and Sinosafe Insurance, are also offering bird flu insurance.

However, health experts say poultry products are still safe to eat as long as they are purchased through regulated channels and are thoroughly cooked.

Li Lanjuan, an academic with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said the virus is sensitive to high temperatures, ultraviolet rays and several kinds of sanitizer.

She ate chicken meat in front of reporters last week to dispel public worries.

"The virus will be killed in two minutes after the temperature reaches 100 degrees Celsius or half an hour if the temperature is 60 degrees Celsius," said Li.

Editor: Chen Zhi
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