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Poland overcomes AI epidemic

Poland had to cull 11 million birds as a result of this year's avian influenza (AI) epidemic, but it seems the worst time is over.

The epidemic is clearly winding down, with the number of outbreaks during the recent weeks more than halved to only 10 between 13 May and 16 May, chief veterinarian Mirosław Welz outlined during a recent press conference. The disease is likely to be completely eradicated in Poland in the course of the coming few weeks, he added.

Poland had to cull 11 million birds as a result of this year's avian influenza (AI) epidemic, but it seems the worst time is over. Photo: Peter Roek
Poland had to cull 11 million birds as a result of this year's avian influenza (AI) epidemic, but it seems the worst time is over. Photo: Peter Roek

Changing weather conditions appeared to be the major game-changer, as wild birds no longer look for the warmest places to live, gathering in large clusters, where they become infected, and then - by migrating - spread the virus to farm birds, Welz explained.

This year, Poland reported 326 AI outbreaks. With nearly 500 outbreaks, France is the only country in Europe where AI hit the poultry industry heavier.

There is no exact data yet, but it can be assumed that the losses are large. It can be presumed that they will be worth several hundred million zlotys," Katarzyna Gawrońska, director at the National Chamber of Poultry and Feed Producers, told local press.

AI fallout

However, bird flu keeps impacting the industry in several different ways. Currently, the average wholesale price for broilers in the country reached record heights of 4.30 to 4.60 PLN (US$1.16 - US$1.24) per kilogram. Market participants said that this is at least 20% above the last years' average, and it is, in fact, the regular price for turkey meat.

"This year's bird flu virus entailed long-term consequences for the entire poultry industry. We have never seen such a huge number of outbreaks, and therefore with such huge losses of poultry population. It is estimated that about 2 million birds from the parent flocks have been culled, which will certainly affect the price of eggs," Przemysław Gręźlikowski, regional manager in the De Heus broiler department, adding that the prices for chicks are also set to rise further.

Avian Influenza
Find out more about the causes and effects of AI and many other poultry diseases in the Poultry World health tool.

"The present situation on the Polish poultry industry is dramatic due to bird flu. Mass liquidation of herds breaks many links in the supply chain. The inability of reproductive farms and hatcheries to operate normally is an issue of particular concern. In many parts of the country, any poultry production will not be possible for a long time," Gawrońska added.

Small and medium-sized poultry breeders are forced to leave the market. They have been severely affected by the AI epidemic, Gawrońskas said, adding that the National Chamber of Poultry and Feed Producers is currently seeking some state aid expansion in order to protect the domestic poultry industry from numerous bankruptcies.