Nearly 6 million birds have recently been culled in Poland due to avian influenza (AI), as the outbreak count breaks new records.
Industry representatives have warned that the sector is facing a tough situation, as the epidemic has never before been this severe in the country. “This is the first time we are facing such a crisis. Until now, 65 outbreaks was the highest number, and we have already exceeded 200,” – said Andrzej Danielak, a spokesperson for the Polish Association of Poultry Breeders and Producers. The last time AI struck Poland, in December of 2019, the outbreaks continued through February of 2020. At that time, a total of 35 outbreaks of this disease were found in 9 provinces, mainly in ducks and turkeys. The virus temporarily halted Polish poultry exports, which proved to be quite painful for local poultry farmers.
Between 1 January and 19 April 2021, in total, 202 AI outbreaks were registered in 15 provinces in Poland. Wielkopolskie province ranks first in terms of the outbreak count, having 69. Since the beginning of the epidemic, the region had to cull 1.5 million birds. Mazowieckie province is affected even more, with slightly less affected farms (64), but with 3.7 million birds lost.
There are signs that the AI epidemic gains momentum in Poland. Between 14 April and 19 April, the State Veterinary Institute confirmed 25 new AI cases – all of the H5N8 subtype. Local news outlet RMF reported that AI is wreaking havoc on the Polish poultry industry, causing an oversupply problem on the domestic market. Poland exports 13 billion zloty (US$ 3.4 billion) worth of poultry per year, and now quite a few export destinations are closed. Some poultry farms are suspending operations, while others suffer losses because of working under harsh quarantine restrictions.
As explained by Katarzyna Gawrońska, the director of the National Chamber of Poultry and Feed Producers, the recent AI outbreak is expected to create problems for the entire poultry industry. Mazowieckie and Greater Poland is an important breeding ground, serving farmers throughout Poland. “The effects of the virus will be felt in farms across the country in the coming months and may lead to higher prices for poultry and eggs,” Gawrońska said.
Farmers called upon the government to approve urgent state aid to poultry farmers. However, despite some promises, there is no certainty whether any concrete plans are in the pipeline. “Both the government and I will not leave farmers without support. However, only joint actions and efforts to protect farms against the penetration of the virus will allow us to avoid further losses and restrictions in this sector,” said Minister of Agriculture Grzegorz Puda.