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AI worsens Polish poultry export crisis

Polish veterinary agencies reported a new outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) in the Siedlce poviat area on a turkey farm with over 117,000 birds, revealed in early December of 2020.

This is the 34th AI outbreak in Poland in 2020, but only the second in the second half of the year. In a follow-up statement, the Chief Veterinary Inspectorate called all poultry breeders to exercise extreme caution and adhere to the principles of biosecurity when handling poultry to minimise the risk of AI being transferred to farms from wild animals. The previous bird flu outbreak occurred in the village of Wroniawy in Western Poland at a farm with 930,000 laying hens on 25 November. The Chief Veterinary Inspectorate ordered the culling of the entire poultry stock at the farm.

The Polish poultry industry suffered severely due to AI outbreaks. Photo: Ruud Ploeg
The Polish poultry industry suffered severely due to AI outbreaks. Photo: Ruud Ploeg

The last time AI hit the Polish poultry industry was in December of 2019. In total, 35 outbreaks were reported in 9 provinces, with the last one taking place on 31 March. The risk to humans from the disease is considered low. Several studies at the Puławy Veterinary Institute showed the virus poses no danger to human health. However, Polish poultry farmers raised concerns that a new wave of the AI epidemic might begin in the country, and it would take severe measures to contain it. Poland is not the only European country affected by AI. To date, the disease has also been found in France, the Netherlands, Germany, Britain, Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Croatia, and Slovenia.

Mounting problems

“The large distance between the first and second outbreaks of avian influenza in Poland this autumn and winter season suggests that we should expect further reports of HPAI occurrence in the country in the coming days,” the National Chamber of Poultry and Feed Producers said in a statement. According to Katarzyna Gawrońska, the director of the chamber, new AI outbreaks in Poland are likely to worsen the existing challenges facing the Polish poultry industry, which is in bad shape due to the coronavirus pandemic. “Mainly our exports will suffer. Some third countries have already stopped importing poultry products from Poland, and further trade restrictions should be expected,” Gawrońska said.

EU: Poland continues to lead in turkey production
Although turkey meat accounts for only 14% of total Polish poultry production, Poland has been the EU’s largest turkey meat producer since 2017. The Polish turkey industry is vertically integrated and is one of the most modern in the EU.

Several countries have already banned Polish poultry exports, including Russia and Hong Kong. Since the beginning of the year, the average price for poultry on the Polish market dropped by 11%, while the production shrank by 2.6%, the National Chamber of Poultry and Feed Producers estimated. “We are dealing with a dramatic drop in revenues from export sales, and breeders are forced to sell livestock at prices that the oldest poultry farmers do not remember – well below the profitability threshold,” Gawrońska said.