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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 11:27 GMT
India bans poultry food imports
Chickens get grilled in Pakistan
The price of chicken has fallen sharply in Pakistan this week
India has placed a total ban on the import of processed poultry products following the outbreak of bird flu in 10 Asian countries.

India on Thursday also begun enforcing a six-month ban on the import of livestock from Pakistan and other countries affected by the disease.

The moves come after Pakistan ordered the killing of millions of chickens.

Thailand and Vietnam this month recorded the first human deaths linked to the bird flu epidemic.

Alert

"We have completely banned import of poultry food from any country," Health Minister Sushma Swaraj announced on Thursday.

She added that an alert had been declared in states bordering Pakistan as well as those in the north-east of the country.

"Red alert has been declared particularly in Punjab because of the Samjhauta Express [train] which comes from Pakistan and bird flu cases have been reported there," she said.

A six month ban that came into force on Thursday prohibits the import of domestic and wild birds, eggs and other livestock products from those countries that have reported cases of bird flu.

Pakistan's strain of bird flu is said to pose less threat to humans than the one detected in South-East Asia.

The Indian Government has also ordered health officials to screen people arriving from countries affected by bird flu.

Cull opposition

News this week that the flu was detected among chickens near the Pakistani city of Karachi has already caused a steep fall in poultry prices in Pakistan.

Experts say millions of animals in the Karachi area are infected - but province officials have opposed a cull.

Pakistan's cabinet has imposed a ban on the import of chicken from countries hit by the disease.

It has also prohibited chicken from being transported for sale between provinces within Pakistan.

"These measures have been taken to avoid the spread of bird flu that has infected chicken birds in Karachi and adjoining areas," said an official statement quoted by Pakistan's state-owned APP news agency on Wednesday.

Pakistan's poultry industry is reeling from the outbreak, with the bulk price of chicken having fallen by as much as 60% in the last 10 days.

No compensation has been announced for the chicken cull.

Since November, between 1.5 million and 3.5 million chickens have died in Sindh province, but authorities there say only a few thousand were from avian flu.

Preventative measures

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi officials have ordered an investigation into the deaths of more than 30,000 chickens within the past week.

Farmers say the animals died after a vaccination programme and officials have maintained the country is free of bird flu.

Bangladesh responded to the outbreak last week by banning the import of live chickens from a number of countries in South-East Asia.

Sri Lanka has also banned imports of poultry products from all Asian countries in an attempt to stop the spread of bird flu.

The ban, effective immediately, covers imports of live and processed poultry, eggs and egg products.

Sri Lankan officials have also advised poultry farmers to stop people who have travelled in bird flu-hit regions from entering their farms.


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