Gov't to give special loans to AI-hit poultry retailers

The South Korean government said Friday that it will offer special loans to local retailers and traders who suffer massive losses stemming from an outbreak of avian influenza in the country, source the Yonhap.

At an emergency economic meeting chaired by Vice Finance Minister Choi Sang-mok in Seoul, the government said the loans of up to 70 million won (US$58,000) with a fixed interest rate of 2 percent will be extended starting in January.

Chicken and egg retailers, and restaurants and small bakeries are subject to the government-backed loan program.

The country has been struggling to cope with the rapidly spreading bird flu that has led to more than 20 million chickens and ducks nationwide being culled since the first case was reported in mid-November.

It caused a supply shortage of eggs and their prices have risen sharply, coupled with hoarding by some retailers, with prices of chickens on a downside mode due to contracted demand.

"A recent survey showed that local poultry businesses experienced a sharp drop in sales, causing them difficulties in liquidity," the finance ministry said in a statement. "The government will come up with further supporting plans to help them stay afloat."

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