Kolkata chicken lovers dare bird flu

March 31st, 2008 - 3:30 pm ICT by admin  

Kolkata, March 31 (IANS) Bird flu has resurfaced in two districts of West Bengal but consumers here seem undeterred, though a large part of the supply of the chicken they eat comes from Malda, where the flu resurfaced a fortnight ago, and from Cooch Behar, the district adjoining Jalpaiguri where a cull is on. “The market is not much affected. We don’t take supplies from Jalpaiguri, however,” said Ratan Sahu, a chicken-seller in a Kolkata market.

The indifference can be seen from the prices of chicken and eggs that remained quite stable in local markets. While undressed chicken is selling at Rs.60 per kg, dressed chicken is being sold at Rs.95 to 100 per kg. The price of a pair of eggs is Rs.3.50.

“This time the loss due to bird flu is expected to be half of what the poultry farmers suffered last time. People have come out of the superstition that all chickens of West Bengal are flu-bearers,” West Bengal Poultry Welfare Association’s assistant secretary Sheikh Nazrul Islam told IANS.

West Bengal Animal Resources Development (ARD) Minister Anisur Rehaman said: “Bird flu in one district does not mean that the entire state is affected. Out of the 60 million chickens in the state only four million have been culled till now. Only two of the government poultry farms have been affected. The most active Dankuni Hatchery is still unaffected.”

Rehaman said that eating properly boiled eggs and chicken is safe even if the bird comes from one of the affected areas.

After the avian flu virus hit 13 of the 19 West Bengal districts in January, panic spread to Kolkata as well, so much so that sale of chicken and eggs was officially banned for quite a few days. Around four million poultry birds were culled in West Bengal during the 45-days or so the flu raged.

Even when the ban was withdrawn and the people were asked to eat chicken and eggs after proper processing and boiling, Kolkatans were not ready to take chances. As a result, the price of mutton shot up.

Two weeks ago, avian flu resurfaced at English Bazaar in Malda district and at Raghunathganj and Jiaganj areas in Murshidabad, almost a month after the government claimed it had contained the virus.

Bird flu also resurfaced in backyard poultry in Jalpaiguri district last week, and the government has set a target to cull around 40,000 birds in the district.

However, this time consumer reaction is different.

“How long can one go for red meat? Chicken is the most popular non-vegetarian delicacy. For the first two months we stopped having chicken or eggs. But now we are having these regularly and yet remain unharmed,” said Trina Mallick, a resident.

No human has tested positive for bird flu in West Bengal since the outbreak in January this year.

Four state ARD officials were kept under medical observation in Malda last week for “suspected symptoms” of avian influenza. Later, West Bengal Health Services Director Sanchita Bakshi confirmed no human infection was reported so far in the state.

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