Vietnam clamps down on Chinese poultry smuggling
HANOI, Mar 23 (Reuters) Vietnam, where bird flu has been contained for nearly three months, has ordered a new crackdown on poultry smuggling from neighbouring China to keep out healthy looking birds which may carry the H5N1 virus.
Agriculture Minister Cao Duc Phat, in an urgent message seen today, ordered authorities in all Vietnam's 64 cities to act against smuggling.
The National Anti-Bird Flu Committee also ordered health, agriculture, finance, trade and police officials to join forces to stop smuggling of poultry from China through the northern border.
Vietnam banned the import of poultry and poultry products from all neighbouring countries last year, including China, to fight the spread of bird flu.
The new crackdown on smuggling, Animal Health Department officials told Reuters, came after reports of asymptomatic cases of the H5N1 virus in Chinese poultry.
But they said random tests samples from 20,000 chickens around Vietnam had not turned up any such cases, in which birds show no symptoms of the disease despite carrying the virus, which they can pass on to other fowl.
Smuggling of poultry from the northern neighbour has been on the rise as Chinese chicken can cost as little as 5,000 dong (0.31 dollar) per kg and sell for as much as 60,000 dong per kg in Vietnam.
The H5N1 virus has killed 42 people in Vietnam, the highest number of fatalities in any of the nations where bird flu has infected people.
Bird flu has spread rapidly from Asia to Europe, the Middle East and Africa with 30 countries having reported outbreaks this year.
REUTERS SK KP1029