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November 14, 2005

The cost of culling

Xinhua has an excellent article on the cost of culling poultry as China battles avian flu.

Culling poultry for bird flu prevention has proven a double-edged sword. While it could help curb the rampage of the deadly virus, it has had a huge impact upon farmers' incomes. This was a big concern for Vice-Minister of Agriculture Yin Chengjie, who said slaughtering poultry has brought huge losses to farmers.

He told a seminar on Friday in Beijing the government has compensated farmers 10 yuan (US$1.2) for each bird killed, but "it cannot make up for the huge losses for farmers, as in some provinces, nearly half of their income derived from poultry rearing."

Last year, per capita net income of Chinese farmers reached 2,936 yuan (US$362), up 6.8 per cent year on year the highest increase rate since 1997.

ttention to that last paragraph: It means the average Chinese farmer is living on about one US dollar a day. A chicken sold in the open market would presumably earn more than $1.20, so government compensation isn't enough.

And that in turn means Chinese farmers are really in trouble. People won't buy their chickens, the government won't pay them enough, so they aren't going to have the money they need to feed their kids—unless they feed them chicken.

When hundreds of millions of farmers are living on a dollar a day, and they can't even make that dollar, China is in big trouble even if H5N1 never goes human-to-human. And if China is in big trouble, we are all in big trouble.

Posted by dymaxion at November 14, 2005 01:19 PM

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