Officials may shut farms hit 3 times by avian flu

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Officials may shut farms hit 3 times by avian flu

Poultry farms that have been affected by influenza three times may have to shut under the government’s new system of managing livestock disease that will be announced in April.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has developed a plan to reform the livestock disease management system to control the avian influenza crisis. So far, more than 30 million birds have been slaughtered in the current outbreak, the worst in the nation’s history.

“Livestock diseases, including avian influenza, break out every year as if it is an annual event,” said Kim Jae-soo, minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs during a briefing Thursday. The agriculture ministry reported the agenda to acting president Hwang Kyo-Ahn on Friday.

“Coming up with preventive plans is as important as terminating the current crisis,” he said.

The ministry could shut down farms that been affected by bird flu by canceling their business licenses to run the farms.

“Details such as how the three-time frequency will work and how long the license is going to be banned are not decided yet,” said a ministry official.

“Also, we are considering whether we should include other types of livestock viruses to this policy aside from the bird flu.”

The agriculture ministry further laid out plans to simplify the current four-level alert system to strengthen the initial countermeasure and strengthening disinfectant.

Plans to reform the livestock virus management system come more than 50 days after the first report of the virus. The bird flu and subsequent culling have driven up the price of eggs.

E-Mart, the leading discount franchise in Korea, raised egg prices on Friday 8.6 percent. The price of 30-egg trays increased from 6,980 won ($5.85) to 7,580 won.

It is the first increase since Dec. 22 when it raised prices 6 percent. E-Mart had frozen egg prices and was the cheapest place to buy trays of eggs.

“The egg prices at the farm kept changing so we inevitably decided to raise the price,” said an E-Mart spokesperson.

Lotte Mart and Homeplus said they don’t have plans to raise prices.

Both discount retailers raised the cost of eggs 5.2 percent and 4.5 percent in the last week of December.

A tray of eggs costs 7,290 won at both Lotte Mart and Homeplus.

To relieve the current egg shortage, the government said it will pay 50 percent of transportation fees needed to import foreign eggs until February.

In case of air transportation, the government will subsidize a maximum of 1 million won per 1 ton of eggs. In case of marine transportation, the subsidy will be a maximum of 90,000 won per 1 ton.

The budget from the subsidy plan is estimated to reach 900 million won.

If the situation doesn’t improve by February, the government will consider additional support.

With the egg shortage worsening, the ministry of agriculture and the ministry of finance agreed to import fresh eggs from overseas earlier this week for the first time in 18 years. They will also waive duties on imported items.

The Finance Ministry said the duty exemption on fresh eggs and egg-related products will last until June 30.

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