“Avian Influenza is a challenge to not only the Rembrandt Foods’ business, but also its co-workers, customers, the communities in which it operates, and to the widespread industry as a whole,” Jonathan Spurway, a company spokesman, said in a statement. Minnesota’s estimated loss of nearly $310 million in poultry production includes sales losses to feed suppliers, trucking companies, and processing plants, said Brigid Tuck, a senior economic impact analyst with the University of Minnesota in Mankato.
The loss in sales of poultry alone is estimated at $114 million. The estimates were based on the bird losses as of last Monday. “If the virus affects more farms, as we have seen since May 11, the impact levels will rise,” Tuck said. In Iowa, the estimated economic loss from egg production is estimated at just over $600 million based on figures from Iowa State University economists using current estimates of dead chickens. Egg producers generate more than $2 billion a year in economic activity and the estimate is based on a loss of a third of the flock. Additional losses were reported Monday.
Other agriculture economists believe the economic losses for those two states could be even higher. The economists said that the estimates are based on annual figures and the exact economic impact won’t be known until it’s determined how long it takes to declare barns virus-free and safe for restocking after birds are cleared out and facilities are disinfected. “They are not going to come back all at once. It’s going to take one to two years for these layer facilities to be back into full production, it’s a gradual process,” said Maro Ibarburu, a business analyst at the Egg Industry Center at Iowa State University. While agriculture economists compute financial losses for states hardest hit, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a monthly report Monday that said national exports of turkey meat will fall 10 percent, eggs about 1.5 percent and even chicken meat exports will fall 6.8 percent this year. The broiler chicken industry, which provides chickens for meat, has not been directly hit by the of the bird flu virus that has mainly infected turkeys and egg-laying hens, but the export impact is due to national bans of all U.S. poultry products imposed by China, Russia and South Korea.