UFU comment on extension of avian influenza prevention zone until end of April

Thursday, 2 March, 2017

Commenting on DAERA’s decision to further extend the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone until the end of April, Ulster Farmers’ Union poultry chairman Tom Forgrave said, “Given the serious risk posed by avian flu to the poultry industry, the Union fully supports DAERA’s decision to continue with the prevention zone until the end of April. Two cases of avian flu have already been confirmed in wild birds in Northern Ireland, which is why it is so important that bird keepers remain vigilant for signs of disease and continue to maintain strict biosecurity standards.”

DAERA have confirmed that after the 16th March, the requirements of the zone will be amended to some extent so long as additional biosecurity measures are followed. “The priority for bird keepers will be the safety of their flock, and they will continue to act responsibly in order to protect their birds. I would encourage producers to think carefully about the amended prevention zone restrictions and weigh up the possible risks of allowing birds outside even with additional biosecurity measures,” said the UFU poultry chairman.

This further extension does have implications for members with free-range enterprises. Under European Union rules, if birds have been housed for more than 12 weeks the labels on egg-packs need to reflect this. In GB industry have introduced a label for free-range egg cartons stating the contents were ‘laid by hens temporarily housed in barns for their welfare’ and the UFU says Northern Ireland should take similar action. “Birds in GB have been under a prevention zone order for longer than Northern Ireland so free-range producers are already facing this labelling issue and we believe similar action should be taken here. Research by the British Egg Industry Council shows that consumers are supportive of farmers putting birds' health first. It is important to remember that these are temporary measures, in place to protect the health of the flock, and these birds are still free-range hens. I would encourage consumers and retailers to continue to support free-range poultry farmers during this challenging time, ensuring that once the risk of bird flu has passed Northern Ireland producers are in a position to supply the free-range market,” said the Mr Forgrave.