They don’t know where or when. But they are sure that the bird flu virus will strike again and continue to make their lives a nightmare. On the eve of November, tension is rising among poultry farmers in the Dordogne, in the South-West. A new case was declared on October 20, in Périgord, within the breeding of 19,000 pullets, in future layers. The prefecture is killing all animals as a precaution. As well as a nearby farm, located less than a kilometer away. If for the moment the home remains an isolated case, it is enough to revive the psychosis in the territory.
From April to June 2022, about half a million chickens have been euthanized in the department to prevent the spread of the H5N1 virus. Six months later, most of the farmers affected by the crisis have still not recovered. Debts are piling up, buildings remain desperately empty and most of the staff is on technical unemployment. A heartbreak for the sector as the year-end celebrations approach. Professionals know they won’t be able to resume “normal” activity before 2023.
About thirty of them traveled to Bordeaux this week to alert the prefecture of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. They ask for expediting requests for vaccination authorization, a coverage of examination costs or even a deposit of the balance of compensation. “We played. We resigned ourselves to slaughtering our animals en masse, to accepting biosecurity protocols. We invested ridiculous amounts to protect our animals in closed buildings. Despite our best that effort, it doesn’t work.” listed Pierre Attard, breeder in Saint-Mayme-de-Péreyrol and co-president of the association of Périgord duck producers. In April, his 9,000 ducks were slaughtered, forcing him to stop his activity. The association estimates that almost 70% of their members’ farms have been closed in the Dordogne.
Some breeders are also criticizing “a delay in the payment of state aid” and one “lack of information” on the compensation schedule. “My wife is on maternity leave, she has to go back to work to help me recover from the losses. We are still waiting when we will be compensated”, Pierre Attard was sad. Unlike other departments, many Périgourdins were unable to continue due to a lack of ducklings. The breeding stocks that supply them – mostly from the Vendée – are themselves depleted after the massive slaughter in 2021. An endless cycle. “We are doing everything to speed up the procedures. Our teams work tirelessly. There were tough political decisions. The compensation rate is 100%, this is unprecedented,” defends Philippe de Guénin, director of the Regional Directorate for Food, Agriculture and Forestry in New Aquitaine.
“The virus takes hold of our environment”
To pay off their loans, some breeders temporarily converted. “I was lucky to be saved because there were very few ducks, but a friend of mine now makes coffins to feed his family. We warn, there will be abandonment of the profession, bankruptcy, suicide”, said Marie (1), a breeder based near Sarlat. “You don’t become a breeder to stay on your couch and ask for help in an empty field, which drives you crazy. Some are even in RSA. It’s very difficult morally.” many Amandine Adam, members of the association of producers.
The concern of the profession is greater because the risk of avian influenza has disappeared “weak” in “Average” in France in October. One month before last year. “After five episodes of avian flu in seven years, we find ourselves on the eve of a new crisis. This epizootic [épidémie qui frappe les animaux, ndlr] gained regions that had been spared until then. The virus takes hold of our environment, it is no longer a periodic visitor,” admitted Philippe de Guénin, who recalled that a vaccine had been tested since May in Gers and Landes. While this could complicate trade – some countries strictly ban the import of vaccinated animals for fear they will carry the virus – the profession sees it as a “beginning of the solution”. “Two-thirds of the experiment seems to show encouraging results, but the conclusions will be known only at the end of the year. If it is positive, it will take at least six months to develop the vaccine. Regardless the consideration, as for Covid, of virus mutations”, announced Philippe de Guénin. A glimmer of hope for the future. But who came late to save 2022.
(1) The first name is changed