South Korea has slaughtered over one fifth of its poultry population as a grapples with its worst ever bird flu. As David Pollard reports, egg prices are soaring, hitting consumers, retailers and caterers across the country.
Turkeys are normally the ones who should be afraid at Christmas but in South Korea this year it's their chicken population. One fifth of them slaughtered since mid-November - and the worst ever bird flue epidemic there likely to claim many more. Most of them are egg-laying hens. Their shortage now driving prices skywards - leaving experts in a bit of a flap. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) ANALYST AT HYUNDAI ECONOMIC INSTITUTE, CHUNG MIN, SAYING: "With the discrepancy between supply and demand, the price of eggs naturally goes up and that means a negative impact for consumers, restaurants and others." (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) MANAGER AT KOREA POULTRY ASSOCIATION, KIM DONG-JIN, SAYING: "We're faced with a double dilemma: the price of eggs going up, but also not enough chickens being consumed - which means that eventually their prices will drop." It's not just the farmers who are counting the cost but the big outlets too. Many running out of certain brands - and restricting others to one tray per person. Local restaurants may soon have to take their popular fluffy steamed egg dish off the menu. And the episode could be a bitter pill for patisseries. Here at L'Escargot, they need 15,000 eggs a day to make their cakes. (SOUNDBITE) (Korean) PASTRY CHEF AT LÈSCARGOT, MOON HONG-NAM, SAYING: "We can ride it out through Christmas with what we have secured. But if it continues until January, we'll have to raise prices." For now, they're still managing to finish off with the traditional cherries on top - and that extra Christmas touch.