Challenged by bird flu, Thai firm rechannels

THAILAND - In their protective armor of color-coded plastic hats, face masks, gowns, gloves and rubber boots, the production line workers at Charoen Pokphand Food's Saraburi factory could be mistaken for workers in a biological warfare facility. In some respects they are.

Charoen Pokphand Food, Thailand's biggest agribusiness and food conglomerate, has set itself the goal of becoming "the kitchen of the world." But as the biggest exporter of chicken from the world's fifth-biggest chicken exporting country, the company is also trying to figure out how to maintain growth and profits in the face of mounting international fears of an avian flu pandemic.

Bird flu has killed more than 60 people in Southeast Asia in less than a year, most of them as a result of eating or coming into contact with infected poultry.

"We are trying to use the crisis as an opportunity," said Adirek Sripratak, Charoen Pokphand Food's president and chief executive officer.

At first glance, that appears a tall order for a business in this sector.

Charoen Pokphand Food depends on chicken-related products for a large part of its revenue. Moreover, about 85 percent of its sales are in Thailand, where 13 people have died since the first outbreak of avian flu in late 2003; two deaths since October have been reported.

Source: International herald Tribune
calendar icon 13 December 2005
clock icon 1 minute read
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