The new chair of Copa & Cogeca’s Poultry and Eggs Working Party has called for support for EU poultry producers who have been suffering from the impact of bird flu on their flocks.
Charles Bourn, who represents the NFU of England and Wales on the pan-EU farmers’ organisation, said a quick solution to the problem must be found.
“Our poultry producers, who have invested heavily in their free range units, have been hit badly by the impact of bird flu on their flocks. A priority for me during my two year mandate will be to resolve this problem both now and for future outbreaks,” said Mr Bourn.
“Flexibility must be introduced into current EU rules to allow for such epidemics. Poultry and egg prices are below the five year average and 2017 is likely to be a difficult year due to bird flu and a cut in exports to our Japanese market if action is not taken.”
He pointed out that the H5N8 strain of bird flu, caused by the migration of wild birds, has resulted in over 80% of free range laying hens to be kept indoors to avoid infection.
Mr Bourn continued: “This strategy has been successful. But current rules state that eggs from laying flocks kept indoors beyond a 12 week threshold to be downgraded from free range to barn, causing very few free range eggs to be available to consumers in the EU in the months ahead.
“Together with our organisations in the food chain, Copa & Cogeca have urged the European Commission to issue a derogation to allow free range flocks, that remain housed after 12 weeks because of the present bird flu problem, to be able to maintain their free range status for a slightly longer period as farmers who have invested heavily in free range facilities will otherwise suffer enormously.”
Mr Bourns explained that, up to this point, the EU Commission has rejected such calls.
“We are keen to continue working with Brussels to find a solution. We urge the Commission to act quickly to the benefit of both consumers and farmers,” he continued.
“In addition, we call on the Commission to negotiate with non-EU countries that currently do not recognise the EU principle of regionalisation, as agreed by the World Animal Health Organisation, and ensure that bans are imposed only in the regions where the outbreaks have occurred.
“Unilateral bans are not acceptable. This is particularly important given the positive prospects in the sector with poultry consumption expected to rise by 1.7% in 2017, albeit at a slower pace than in 2016.”