Thai chicken processors cooking meat to recover exports

By Dominique Patton

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Bird flu Meat Thailand

Thailand's chicken processors say they will soon recover their
export sales, badly damaged by the bird flu crisis, by offering
their international customers premium, cooked products.

Exports of cooked poultry pieces have already increased by 38 per cent since 2004, when the ban on fresh meat encouraged processors to look for new opportunities.

Pornsri Laurujisawat, manager of the Thai broiler processing export association, told​ that the export of cooked meat is expected to continue rising this year, to a forecast 350,000 tons.

During 2005, the country exported 265,000 tons of cooked chicken, still significantly less than the 543,000 tons of all poultry meat exported in 2003 but a respectable figure that suggests the country will quickly recover its sales.

"When we were hit by bird flu, we needed to look for a solution. Cooked products are premium products so this new marketing strategy will be good for us. Thailand also has the skills needed for cutting and separating the chicken parts and preparing it for convenience products,"​ Laurujisawat said.

The growth in convenience foods in Thailand's major export markets - Japan and the EU - will boost the country's new marketing strategy as will the drop-off in demand for fresh poultry across the world.

The outbreak of bird flu in Europe has already had a dramatic impact on domestic poultry processors who have seen prices for fresh meat fall with declining demand.

At the same time, prepared meal consumption in Europe and America is forecast to exceed US$40bn by 2009, up from US$29bn in 1999, according to research from Datamonitor.

Thailand's leading processors look set to benefit from the situation, with less competition in ready-to-eat products.

One of these, the Betagro group, has unveiled plans to invest 2.7 billion baht in expanding capacity for cooked meat at two of its poultry plants, as well as boosting production of feed and swine.

It will raise its capacity to 75,000 tonnes, from 40,000 tonnes per year, and is expecting to increase revenue from chicken exports to 8 billion baht (€170m) this year.

Processors are also expecting to see the ban on fresh meat lifted in coming weeks as Thailand has had no reported incidence of the bird flu virus for 120 consecutive days.

Since January 2004 more than 60 million Thai birds have been culled, halving revenue from chicken exports that year to 22 billion baht.

Related topics Food Safety & Quality

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