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Chickens, Ducks Back as Bird Flu Suppressed

Only two of the 49 bird flu epidemic areas have not been freed from restrictions within the Chinese mainland.

To many poultry eaters, this news almost means the end of the month-long "torture" they have gone through without dining on poultry.

"I've observed that Beijing has been safe since the avian influenza outbreak. Now two epidemic areas left, I guess poultry should be very secure to eat," said Wang Ying, a Beijinger fond of chicken.

Wang said she had not been ready to make dishes out of frozen chicken yet, but last week she took a bite on a chicken burger her boyfriend bought at KFC.

"Because I really cannot resist it and I missed the taste," she explained.

KFC may soon get over the difficult period, too, since more and more of its followers like Wang are coming back.

Though KFC never admitted it, people noticed the smaller crowds in KFC restaurants in Beijing last month.

"When I took my son to KFC a couple times in February, we felt kind of glad actually, because the restaurant seemed much less crowded than usual and we did not need to wait for seats," said Zhu Baoxia, a news editor in Beijing.

Quanjude, famous for Peking roast duck, is also benefiting from the lift of restrictions in epidemic areas.

"We are seeing more foreign tourists back to our restaurants recently," said a spokesman for Beijing Quanjude Group Co Ltd. in a phone interview with China Daily.

He confirmed that the restaurants in Beijing, usually crowded with foreign tourists, had received calls to cancel booked dinners.

The selling of vacuum-packed Peking roast duck, a product popular with tourists out of the municipality, also was influenced and dropped in February, the spokesman said.

"Good news is that the business is returning to normal," he said.

In the supermarket, the retail price of chicken is bouncing back, but still lower than before the epidemic.

"The lowest price of chicken wings per kilogram has dropped to 20 yuan (US$2.41). Now it is 23.8 yuan (US$2.87), but still lower than the usual 27 yuan (US$3.25)," said Han Fang, a seller at one of the Shouhang Supermarket chainstores.

But Han said the sale of frozen chicken products has not yet recovered, even at such a low price.

Chicken lovers should feel lucky and not waste the food, because people in South Korea have to pay a much higher price for chicken.

The retail price of chicken in South Korea has surged to a six-year high of 3,580 won (US$3.05) per kilogram.

According to the local English newspaper The Korea Times, the price of chicken dropped sharply to 1,170 won (US$1) earlier this year amid public fears over the highly contagious bird flu which appeared in the country in December 2003.

(China Daily March 13, 2004)

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