Poultry stockpiled as consumption plummets

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Avian influenza, European union

Consumption of poultry meat has dropped by more than half in some
EU states, with 300,000 tonnes now in storage across the bloc,
according to EU estimates.

While the glut pushes down the price of poultry for processors, it is also a sign that the public continues to stay away from the meat with the continuing advancement of avian influenza in Europe. So far 13 EU member states have report bird flu in the wild. This includes France and Germany, where infections in domesticated poultry occurred.

Since the beginning of the recent avian flu crisis, consumption of poultry and eggs has fallen dramatically in some member states, leading to a sharp reduction in prices.

In a bid to hold up falling prices for poultry in the EU, the European Commission has proposed additional aid for chicken producers.

At the EU Agriculture Council meeting on 25 April in Luxembourg, a proposal for a regulation on exceptional market support measures tabled on 29 March will be adopted, stated the Internet site of the Austrian EU presidency.

The is planning measures to reduce production and to make payment for stocks. There are no plans concerning private stocks or food aid.

The European Parliament already gave an assurance of its support on 8 April, subject to certain amendments. The main differences of opinion concern whether the EU should fund only 50 per cent of the compensation, as the Commission proposes.

The European Parliament, some countries in the south of the EU and some new members states want 100 per cent compensation.

Josef Pröll, Austria's minister for agriculture and current president of the council, declared at the previous meeting in March that Europe's poultry farmers would not be left in the lurch. Austria is in charge of the EU's presidency for the six month period to the end of June.

"Farmers should not only get compensation when infected stock are slaughtered, but also for other economic losses,"​ the bulletin quotes him as stating.

In addition, the European Commission will give a written update on the situation regarding avian influenza.

Under current arrangements the EU could only give aid to farmers with an actual outbreak of avian influenza on their own property, or who are restriced from sending their poultry to market because of veterinary controls.

In early April the UK became the 13th EU member to report the presence of the H5N1 form of the avian influenza virus, or bird flu, in wild birds. Of more concern to consumers, Germany also reported an outbreak in domestic poultry at a farm.

With the recent spread of avian influenza throughout the European Union, consumer demand for eggs and poultry meat has declined sharply. In some countries, such as Italy, demand has fallen by up to 70 per cent, drastically lowering poultry farmers' incomes.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reported that recent avian influenza outbreaks in Europe, the Middle East and Africa have caused dramatic swings in poultry consumption, increased trade bans and sharp price declines. The UN agency expects poultry consumption shocks this year in many countries.

"A steady erosion of previously expected gains in per caput poultry consumption will likely push down global poultry consumption in 2006, currently estimated at 81.8 million tonnes, nearly three million tonnes lower than the previous 2006 estimate of 84.6 million tonnes,"​ stated FAO commodity specialist Nancy Morgan.

According to the FAO report consumption shocks are ranging from a dramatic 70 per cent decline in Italy in mid-February to 20 per cent in France and 10 per cent in northern Europe.

The crisis has also affected the $42 billion dollar feed sector in Europe, with demand losses estimated at up to 40 per cent in some countries, the FAO stated.

Around 200 million chickens have been culled or have died of the disease worldwide since the onset of the crisis in late 2003.

Related topics: Processing & Packaging

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