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January 19, 2006
Strong chicken exports despite bird flu fears: USDA

U.S. chicken exports will total "a very strong" 5.405 billion lbs. (2.45 billion kg) this year, despite a slight downturn in forecasts due to concerns about bird flu, the U.S. Agriculture Department's chief economist said on Wednesday.

"Even though our growth in exports is being reduced a little bit by AI (avian influenza) concerns around the world, we still have a very strong broiler market," Chief Economist Keith Collins said in an interview with USDA's radio news service.

Last week, USDA lowered its forecast for broiler exports this year by 190 million lbs., or 3.4 percent, "in part reflecting consumer reactions to recent avian influenza discoveries in several markets."

It was the first time USDA cited concern about bird flu affecting broiler meat exports.

"Most of that decline is due to a belief we are going to export less broilers to Turkey," as well as to Romania and "a few other" countries, Collins said .

The H5N1 bird flu virus has killed 79 people in six countries since late 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

In 2005, U.S. broiler exports were 5.211 billion lbs. (2.37 billion kg), USDA estimated. There have been no reported cases of bird flu among U.S. flocks and officials say chicken meat is safe to eat if cooked properly.

Source : Reuters