October 30, 2017 / 5:56 AM / in a year

China's Wen's overhauls poultry business after bird flu toll

BEIJING, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Chinese chicken breeder Guangdong Wen’s Foodstuff Group Co Ltd said on Sunday it had switched to new broiler breeds and expanded sales of chilled poultry meat in the wake of the country’s worst-ever wave of bird flu last winter.

The company, reporting a nearly 63-percent drop in profits for the first nine months of the year, said the H7N9 virus had had a serious impact on its business in the first half, but that sales had recovered in the third quarter as demand returned and prices improved.

Almost 300 people have died from the H7N9 strain of bird flu in China since last October, far exceeding the death toll of previous winters.

In response, authorities shuttered live bird markets around the country to try to stop the spread of disease from birds to humans, decimating trade in China’s native yellow-feather chickens, commonly sold in such marketplaces.

Wen’s, which made about a quarter of its sales from poultry meat in the first half, said it has changed the type of broilers it sells to better suit more professional breeding, consumer demand and slaughtering.

It did not give further details on the breeds. In the past, it has focused on yellow-feathered chickens.

The firm has also upgraded its poultry business, it said, moving into slaughtering, adapting its sales model to more customised orders, and expanding its chilled poultry meat business.

Sales in the third quarter were still down by 7.78 percent year-on-year at 14.1 billion yuan ($2.12 billion), as a result of lower poultry and pork selling prices this year.

Net profit attributable to shareholders for the quarter fell 38.2 percent to 2.2 billion yuan, while profits for the first three quarters declined to 4 billion yuan. ($1 = 6.6430 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Dominique Patton; Editing by Joseph Radford)

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