Chinese branded poultry sales have been hit hard by the outbreak of the new avian flu virus H7N9 in and around Shanghai.

“Fearing bird flu, consumers stopped eating poultry meat, resulting in huge loss for meat companies,” said an official at the Beijing-based China Animal Agriculture Association (CAAA).

A spokesperson at Yurun Group, one of China’s largest pork and poultry meat products manufacturers that supplies retailers nationwide, said sales of salted duck were stagnant, telling just-food the company is “discussing strategies”.

A Century Mart store manager in Shanghai added: “Poultry meat products, such as salted duck and spiced chicken feet, even eggs, have not been selling well since last month.”

The new flu has infected 33 Chinese consumers as of 10 April, and nine have died.

The Shanghai office of China’s Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) on Monday predicted the H7N9 crisis probably could be an opportunity for retailers to sell chilled poultry meat products.

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“Chinese like to eat fresh [unrefrigerated] poultry meat, but it may be the time to turn to chilled meat,” Sun Lei, the MOA’s Shanghai director, said.

At present, most Chinese chilled poultry meat manufacturers are supplying their products to eateries rather than retailers.