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MEPs demand meeting with Phil Hogan over bird flu

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Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have demanded a meeting with EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan to discuss the threat of bird flu across Europe.

On Wednesday morning the European Parliament Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development met to discuss the threat of bird flu. There has been some 550 recorded outbreaks of the H5N8 strain of avian influenza (bird flu) in both wild birds and poultry flocks in Europe since the end of October 2016.

Four cases of H5N8 – a highly infectious strain of bird flu – have been detected in wild birds in Ireland since the end of December.

Speaking to a representative from the EU Commission’s health department on Wednesday morning, MEPs demanded a meeting with EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan on the continuous need for bird slaughtering in a number of European countries. Millions of captive birds have been culled in Europe since the first case of H5N8 was discovered in a wild bird in Hungary at the end of October.

A British MEP said the need for continuous slaughtering and disinfection, as well as the purchasing of new birds, will have “serious financial consequences for all producers”.

“The Commissioner needs to address this committee as soon as possible,” he said.

“The situation is getting increasingly serious for poultry producers all over Europe.”

So far, five cases of bird flu have been confirmed in British poultry flocks.

Free range producers

MEPs also highlighted the problem for free range producers in many EU countries, who have had to house their birds according to regulations.

“The producers have only 12 weeks before they lose their status as free range,” a Dutch MEP said. “In some countries there is only a week left. Free range producers have made significant investments so that they can keep their chickens outdoors, but if they lose their status they cannot sell them at a premium. This is ludicrous.”

In Ireland, housing regulations were brought in on 23 December for 30 days. The regulations have recently been extended until further notice, meaning that free range producers have until 17 March before they lose their status.

The Commission representative said a letter would be sent to Commissioner Hogan on Wednesday to invite him to meet with the Agriculture Committee as soon as possible.

Compensation

The EU Commission has a €20m fund to draw from to compensate member states for 50% of the cost of bird culling and 50% of the costs of disinfection.

However, the Commission representative said it is possible that some of the worst affected countries – such as France, Hungary and Bulgaria – will need reimbursement of up to 75%. He also warned that most of the €20m has already been distributed due to the number of bird flu cases so far this year.

Appeal to backyard flock owners

Meanwhile, Mairead McGuinness, Irish MEP and first vice-president of the European Parliament, has issued an appeal to backyard flock owners to keep birds indoors to protect commercial flocks.
Source: Irish Farmers Journal

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