Smuggled poultry from China carries bird flu virus, antibiotics: Vietnam official

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A senior agriculture official said Tuesday that most Chinese chicken smuggled into Vietnam -- at very low prices -- carry the bird flu virus and excessive amounts of antibiotics.

Dam Xuan Thanh, deputy head of the Animal Health Department, said more than 60 percent of samples taken from Chinese chickens at the Lang Son border have H5N1, posing a "very high risk of spreading the disease in the country."

He said the chicken is likely to affect consumers' health anyway since all the samples had higher antibiotics levels than permitted.

The import is mostly of old hens that no longer lay eggs, and are considered "junk" and end up as animal feed in China or developed countries.

Figures from the ministry show that 70,000 to 100,000 tons of such chickens are smuggled across the border every year.

A kilogram sells for around VND15,000 (US$0.72) in China, and the price doubles at the Vietnam border.

But it is still less than the average chicken price in Vietnam.

Agricultural authorities have begun to crack down on this long-existing problem, but around 50,000 chickens are still smuggled into Vietnam every week, Thanh said.

Statistics compiled by global veterinary health company CEVA Santé Animale indicate that wholesale chicken prices have fallen more than 16 percent this year to around VND35,000 (US$1.70) per kilogram.

Thailand's CP Group, Malaysia's Emivest, and Indonesia's Japfa Comfeed Tbk, the three foreign-invested companies that have been buying from farmers in Vietnam, said they have struggled with selling local chicken at lower than their cost prices.

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