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Bird flu deals another blow to restaurants

KATHMANDU, AUG 22 -

Avian influenza has dealt another blow to Kathmandu’s restaurant business already suffering from a fall in patronage due to a crackdown against drunk driving.

Outbreaks of bird flu in various parts of the valley have led to a government ban on the sale of chicken, discouraging city dwellers from eating out. Restaurateurs said business had dropped 15-25 percent of late.

According to the Restaurant and Bar Association of Nepal (Reban), chicken items make up 80 percent of the non-vegetarian menu in local restaurants. Chicken is popular among local diners as it is cheaper than other meat products. In addition, chicken has gained more fans as people have been switching to

white meat from red meat due to health concerns.  

“The campaign against drunk driving had led to a 50 percent drop in business for restaurants, and the current situation has worsened the situation,” said Reban Secretary Ram Gurung. According to him, restaurants targeted at the local people have been affected more. “Restaurants targeted at foreign visitors have been affected the least as they offer mostly pork and other meat items instead of chicken,” he added.

The government has imposed a ban on the supply and sale of poultry products after bird flu cases were found at several poultry farms in Kathmandu and Bhaktapur. Since July 16, when the first cases of bird flu were reported, the authorities have culled chickens worth Rs 2 billion in the valley.

Following the ban on chicken, many restaurants have now started considering fish and mutton as alternatives. According to Reban, many restaurants have started offering new fish and mutton items on their menus which are also popular among local meat lovers.

Meanwhile, a number of restaurants have started offering dishes prepared from frozen chicken. With prices of goat, fish and packaged chicken rising, production costs have soared for the valley’s restaurants.

Gurung said prices on restaurant menus could increase 10-20 percent due to rising production costs. He added that the outbreaks of bird flu would have no adverse effects on the tourism business.

Reban Vice-President Pramod Jaiswal said bird flu outbreaks had resulted in a downward trend in the restaurant business. Jaiswal, who also operates Mela Restaurant & Bar at Lainchaur, said they had to be satisfied with a lower profit margin as raising prices would be a bad idea.

According to him, chicken dishes are the main items on the menu for a large number of restaurants in the valley. Jaiswal said the number of people visiting restaurants had dropped marginally due to bird flu. He expected business to pick up with the onset of the festival season. “If the fear of bird flu is completely removed, we are hopeful of regaining our business by Dashain,” he added.

Posted on: 2013-08-22 09:05