Avian flu fuels egg price rises in Japan, Taiwan

Ongoing outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in laying hens have disrupted egg markets in Japan and Taiwan.

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Natallia | AdobeStock.com
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In Japan, the current wave of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has affected mainly commercial flocks of laying hens. 

Losses in this sector are blamed for disruption of the country’s egg supply, according to Japan Times.

One week ago, the source reported that, at JPY327 (US$2.46) per kilo, egg prices were more than double in February what they had been 12 months previously. 

These issues led McDonald’s Japan to suspend sales of a popular breakfast egg product, and to warn of other likely menu changes. For the time being, egg salads are no longer stocked by 7-Eleven convenience stores, according to the same source. Furthermore, two of Japan’s condiment manufacturers — Kewpie and Ajinomoto — have announced they will be raising prices for their mayonnaise and tartar sauce. 

Japan’s seasonal HPAI outbreak reaches 80

The latest official reports from the national veterinary authority to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) put the number of confirmed HPAI outbreaks at 78.

This covers the current HPAI “season” starting at the end of October last year to March 5. On all but one of the country’s affected farms, presence of the H5N1 HPAI virus serotype was confirmed. 

Directly impacted have been more than 15.5 million commercial poultry through mortality or culling. More than 50 of these outbreaks have involved egg-laying flocks, including the latest two.

In early March, the virus was detected at a farm with around 243,000 hens in the Fukuoka city area, which is on the southern island of Kyushu. Within a few days, another outbreak was confirmed in a flock of 685,600 birds in Tainai city in the Central Honshu region of Chubu. 

Since those cases were reported to WOAH, Japan’s agriculture ministry has confirmed a further two outbreaks. Also affecting laying hens, these bring Japan’s outbreak total for the season so far to 80. 

As well as a second farm in Tainai city, the other outbreak hit a premises in Kanegasaki. This town is in Iwate, which is in the Tohoku region in northern Honshu. This is the first outbreak of the current season in Iwate. It brings to 25 the number of prefectures with one or more outbreaks linked to the H5N1 virus since October. 

Taiwan sets record egg prices

Egg shortages have also been reported in Taiwan, according to Focus Taiwan. At the start of this month, the supply chain disruptions were blamed on a combination of HPAI and fluctuating temperatures. 

However, the Council of Agriculture minister said the government had introduced a number of measures that would ameliorate these effects by the end of March. Among these is the importation of up to five million chicken eggs from Australia. These will be channeled to food processors, while domestic eggs will be available for consumers.

In the longer term, government measures are aimed at supporting Taiwan to become self-sufficient in egg production. To boost reliance in the face of HPAI and climate change, the government has developed a three-year modernization plan at a cost of 3.3 billion Taiwanese dollars (TWD; US$107 million). Around TWD1.8 billion has been earmarked for poultry producers to improve and update their farms. 

Since the announcement, chicken egg prices have been raised for the second time in a month, reports Focus Taiwan. Both wholesale and farm-gate prices have been increased by TWD3 per 600g – to TWD55 and TWD45.5, respectively. The wholesale price sets a new record. Duck egg prices have also been set higher.  

HPAI outbreak wave hits 22 more Taiwanese farms

Over the past three weeks, the veterinary authority in Taiwan has registered with WOAH a further 22 outbreaks of HPAI on farms. All of these began between the start of January and mid-February.

As well as the H5N1 virus variant circulating widely in Asia and around the world, the H5N2 serotype has also been detected sporadically in Taiwan since 2012.

Of the 22 most recently reported outbreak, 17 have been linked to the H5N1 variant. Directly impacted through mortality or culling have been more than 455,000 commercial birds. 

Affected have been nine flocks of native chickens, four of laying hens, two of quails, and one each of meat geese and other chickens. Latest outbreaks have been widely distributed in four counties and in Tainan city.

Taiwan’s reported losses from this virus since November of last year have now passed 780,000 poultry. 

Meanwhile, poultry at five premises tested positive for the H5N2 virus serotype during the month of January. Involving a total of almost 127,000 birds, three affected flocks comprised native chickens, and there was one each of quails and laying hens. 

Since November last, Taiwan’s authorities have notified WOAH of the loss of more than 714,000 commercial birds from this virus variant. 

New cases in poultry in India, Nepal, TĂĽrkiye

To WOAH, the animal health agency of Nepal has reported a further four HPAI outbreaks linked to H5N1 virus serotype. 

These brings the nation’s total outbreaks since January to 11. More than 52,300 poultry have been affected — all near to the capital, Kathmandu.

A second outbreak attributed to the same virus variant has been confirmed to WOAH by the authorities in TĂĽrkiye (Turkey). There were around 1.39 million poultry at the affected farm, 2,000 of which died. The rest of the flock has been destroyed, along with around 10,000 poultry in backyard flocks within 10 kilometers of the outbreak. 

Based on the official notification, the two Turkish outbreaks appear to be at least 50 kilometers apart. 

India’s authorities have confirmed with WOAH an outbreak of HPAI reported by local media last month. Of the 6,415 poultry at the government-run farm in Bokaro in Jharkhand, more than 2,600 died and the rest have been destroyed. These were the first cases in this eastern state of India since September of 2019.

HPAI developments elsewhere in Asia

In the Philippines, two areas appear to have brought earlier HPAI outbreaks under control. 

According to the Philippines News Agency (PNA), South Cotabato has been declared free of avian flu. This province in the south of the island of Mindanao was the location of outbreaks in two communities during February of last year. However, a recent surveillance program has revealed no bird testing positive for HPAI.

Meanwhile, Roxas City authorities are expecting soon to be able to declare the area free of the infection, reported PNA at the end of February. There was one outbreak at a farm in this part of Capiz province in the Western Visayas region during December. All poultry within 1km of the premises were culled, and there have also been no virus-positive results from surveillance carried out.

Among their respective wild bird populations, four Asian states have registered with WOAH new HPAI cases linked to the H5N1 virus serotype. These were Japan, Nepal, and Taiwan.

To WOAH, the Russian veterinary authority has declared HPAI “resolved” in Khabarovsk. 

In this region of the Far Eastern federal district, one outbreak linked to the H5N1 virus serotype was confirmed at a commercial farm in October of 2022. Since then, no further cases have been reported.

5 new human cases of avian influenza in Asia

In the Western Pacific region, five additional infections with avian influenza A viruses of avian origin have been registered with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Of these, two were confirmed in Cambodia — the south-east Asian nation’s first such cases since 2014. 

The first case was an 11-year-old girl who became unwell in mid-February. Following a positive test for the avian influenza A(H5N1) virus, the patient was diagnosed with severe pneumonia. She died eight days later in hospital. The second case was the girl’s father, who has since recovered. 

Since 2003, a total of 240 human infections with this virus have been reported to WHO in this region. Of these, 135 have been fatal. Cases have occurred in four countries — Cambodia, China, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and Vietnam. 

Between January of 2003 and the end of January this year, 21 countries across the world have together recorded 868 human infections with the H5N1 virus type. Just over half have been fatal.

In the Western Pacific region, WHO has also been notified of one further case of an infection with the avian influenza A(H5N6) virus. 

The patient — a 49-year-old man from Guangdong province in China — had severe pneumonia in December, but he has since recovered. Previously, he had contact with backyard poultry.

Since 2014, WHO reports it has been notified of 84 lab-confirmed cases of human infection with this virus (including 33 deaths) in the region. 

The other two new human infections were in China, and tested positive for the avian influenza A(H9N2) virus. 

From Sichuan and Hunan provinces, both of these patients were young children. In October and November of last year, they had mild symptoms, and have since recovered. One had exposure to a live poultry market. 

They bring to 84 the number of cases linked to the H9N2 virus in the Western Pacific region since 2015. 

Last month, a young girl in Ecuador was admitted to hospital with H5N1 influenza.

View our continuing coverage of the global avian influenza situation.

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