BEIJING, April 16 (UPI) -- Chinese poultry businesses, facing rising H7N9 bird flu cases, have already suffered losses of more than 10 billion yuan ($1.6 billion), the industry said.
The National Poultry Industry Association said all live poultry stands nationwide have been shut down since the first cases of the rare bird flu strain emerged early this month, China Daily reported Tuesday.
At least 14 people have since died among the 63 affected so far by the strain nationwide, the report said quoting health officials.
The poultry association said breeders, suppliers and sellers, all are facing tough times because of mounting losses.
Liang Zhong, an industry spokesman, told China Daily the price of Huangyu chicken, described as high-quality, has dropped to four yuan per kilogram from 16 yuan ($2.55) a kg.
With health officials saying the H7N9 virus has been found in pigeons, Liang said supplies of pigeons from Guangdong province also have stopped as people are afraid to buy them.
The report said even as poultry sellers remain anxious, the virus seems to be spreading slowly.
"I am making some money from transporting vegetables for other agricultural markets ... as we are struggling to make a living at the moment," said Xia Maochun, normally a poultry seller to restaurants in Shanghai. He said he is currently losing about 40,000 yuan, or nearly $6,500, a month after closing his poultry stand at an agriculture market.
"I am losing over 100,000 yuan ($16,174) a month by feeding 6,000 to 7,000 chickens on three farms," said the owner of a chicken farm in Zhejiang province. The China Daily report said he is known to play Mozart compositions on the violin to comfort his chickens for better egg and meat yield.
"The only thing I can do is to feed these chickens with safe fodder and ensure their living environment is clean enough until the H7N9 outbreak ends," he said.