Informal poultry sales raise City bird flu concerns
Hundreds of illegal poultry shops are operating in HCM City in the lead-up to Tet, sparking concerns about a return of the avian flu H5N1 virus.
High demand during the lunar new year has resulted in an increasing number of shops selling poultry from unknown sources.
Purchases of these kind of products have been much higher than normal during pre-Tet days.
Recent statistics supplied by the HCM City Animal Health Department show that 200 illegal poultry shops have opened, and after one month, another 31 were operating.
Binh Chanh District is the busiest spot in HCM City for the illegal slaughtering and trading of poultry.
The department has seized around 1,000 live poultry a week, excluding eggs and domestic fowl of all kinds from unknown suppliers.
It costs the department more than VND40 million (US$2,000) a day to incinerate and bury the illegally traded poultry.
Last year, the department spent more than VND800 million ($40,000) on this activity.
The busiest streets for the illegal businesses are Nguyen Van Linh in District 7, Pham Hung in District 8 and Truong Dai Bridge in Go Vap District.
The busiest time for sales is early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
Dozens of poultry shops of this kind operate on the 30-m-long Truong Dai Bridge, where many sellers hide their poultry in other places and show up to get customers.
Prices for the illegal poultry vary from place to place, ranging from VND80,000-95,000 ($4-5) per kilo.
Most sellers said their sources of supply were from the Mekong Delta provinces of Long An, Tien Giang and Dong Thap, which are seen as trusted suppliers.
The illegal activity is repeated every year near Tet and local authorities can never comprehensively deal with the problem, according to Huynh Tan Phat, head of the department's general co-ordination office.
"Shop-owners and sellers trading poultry from unknown suppliers set up business suddenly and recklessly, and it is very difficult to deal with them," said an official from the department, adding that one of his colleagues had been injured when confronting the illegal traders.
Most of the shops and sellers are located on the borders of the city's districts and provinces, which makes it easy for them to move around, said Nguyen Cong Thanh, head of the security team of Cau Market in District 12.
The majority of the shop-owners and sellers are migrants, which makes it difficult to inspect and impose penalties, according to Thanh.