Bangladesh seizes Indian chickens on bird flu fears
DHAKA, Apr 1 (Reuters) Bangladesh, which has tightened its borders following the outbreak of bird flu in India, said today that its frontier guards seized and burned about 16,000 chickens smuggled from the neighbour in the past two days.
''We seized the Indian chickens from border areas in eastern district of Comilla and northern district of Rajshahi on Thursday night and yesterday,'' said Major Motiur Rahman of Bangladesh Rifles.
''The Indian chickens were burnt later.'' he told Reuters.
There have so far been no reported outbreak of the H5N1 virus in Bangladesh, and officials strongly deny it might have spread quietly beyond the notice of health inspectors.
''We are keeping a close watch on the borders and within the country, monitoring all poultry farms,'' a health ministry official said.
''So far there is no sign of any outbreak of bird flu,'' he added.
Bangladesh has banned the import of poultry from 25 bird flu-hit countries, including India, as a precaution and asked border forces to crack down on smuggling of birds.
The H5N1 avian influenza virus has spread in birds at an alarming rate in recent months, sweeping through parts of Europe, into Africa, and flaring anew in Asia. It has killed at least 105 people since it re-emerged in late 2003.
Bird flu has delivered a major blow to poultry trade in India, where chicken is a staple for meat-eaters in India as beef and pork are not eaten for religious reasons or quality concerns.
Bangladesh has about 150,000 poultry farms with an annual turnover of 750 million dollars, industry officials said, adding that poultry production and consumption had fallen recently on bird flu fears.
''Production of young chickens have fallen from 4.5 or 5 million to 3.5 or 4 million per week,'' said Moshiur Rahman, secretary of poultry Breeders Association of Bangladesh.
Reuters DKS BD1627