16 million poultry slaughtered, a record in France

This is a new sad record. Since the start of the bird flu epizootic in November, 16 million poultry have been slaughtered in France, the Ministry of Agriculture said on Monday. “The epidemic peak was passed at the end of March and the epizootic is decelerating”, however noted the ministry.

Since the first case recorded in the north of France at the end of November, 1,364 farms have been contaminated by the virus, including 857 outbreaks recorded in Vendée and in the neighboring departments, where the authorities empty the farms via mass slaughter of sick animals but as healthy, preventively.

Ordinarily, crises linked to avian influenza remain generally confined to the South-West, in particular to duck farms intended for the production of foie gras. Last year, nearly 500 outbreaks were recorded in farms and 3.5 million animals, mainly ducks, slaughtered. Avian influenza has a seasonal character. Transported by migrating birds from Asia, it usually begins to develop in October in Europe and continues until April.

A slow return to production

But for the first time, wild birds contaminated farms this year during their migration from southern countries, which led to a second wave, which is coming to an end. “It is especially the gallus – a variety of hen – which are affected”, indicates the ministry concerning this wave. Since November, avian flu has caused a loss “of around 6% of national egg production in a country that is 101% self-sufficient”, noted Loïc Coulombel, vice-president of the egg interprofession ( CNPO).

The price of eggs has already increased by 13% between February and March and by 63.3% between March 2021 and March 2022, due to a very sharp increase in the cost of production linked to the war in Ukraine, according to the index INSEE agricultural prices. The equivalent of the population of poultry slaughtered during the bird flu episode cannot be put back into production before next summer, say professionals in the sector. It will even be necessary to wait until the end of the year, or even the beginning of next year, to recover all of the lost production, provided that a new episode of avian flu does not break out in the fall.

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