Address bird flu challenges with food supply in mind, Mr Griffiths tells EFRA Select Committee.
British food security and business continuity must be built into measures addressing the impact of avian influenza, BPC Chief Executive told MPs today.
In an EFRA Committee session, BPC Chief Executive Richard Griffiths joined turkey farmer and BPC member, Paul Kelly, and James Pearce-Higgins of the British Trust for Ornithology to discuss the ongoing impact avian influenza poses to businesses feeding the nation.
Over a million birds, and half of free-range Christmas turkeys, have been affected during this most recent outbreak, Mr Griffiths reported to the EFRA Select Committee. “The scale of this outbreak is unlike anything we have seen before” Mr Griffiths said. “Its intensity poses a risk to UK food producers, and our food supply.”
A billion birds are reared every year to provide half the meat the nation eats. Businesses are doing all they can to avoid impact to people’s dinner tables but at a time when access to affordable, nutritious food is more important than ever, avian influenza-related challenges must be addressed to support British businesses feeding the nation.
BPC member Paul Kelly told the committee that “without a vaccine or a compensation scheme that is fit for purpose, farmers are less likely to take the risk of growing poultry.”
Healthy domestic production is essential for our national food security. If Government does not prioritise business continuity and tackle pressures to mitigate the impact of avian influenza, the consequences are likely to manifest in UK food supply.
“Risk must be expanded to include commercial viability,” said Mr Griffiths. “The conditions of this outbreak are unlike anything we have seen before. More farms have been affected and because of that the concept of ‘risk’ has changed. Contingency plans and measures must reflect that change. This is about our businesses, and ultimately our food security. We have to be able to feed ourselves.”
The challenges wrapped up in avian influenza are only exacerbating existing pressures deriving from Brexit, inflation and an ongoing labour shortage. “Production costs have increased up to 18%,” reported Mr Kelly in today’s session. Combined with resource pressures and trade issues, current structures must be reviewed to handle the intensity of the outbreak.
It may be of note that in the absence of an SPS agreement, unreciprocated controls on bird flu with EU are putting British producers at a commercial disadvantage. This could easily be solved under a mutual understanding between UK and EU to alleviate some of the burdens wrapped up in trade to preserve the viability of British businesses keeping food moving.
Collaboration between Government and industry will set the precedent for how we mitigate the impact of avian influenza, where healthy and profitable domestic production is necessary for food security. To preserve the viability of British businesses feeding the nation, the British Poultry Council is calling for:
- Government to work with industry to address issues pertaining to vaccination. Both the national and international poultry industry believes vaccination – if coherently applied to avoid trade disruption – is a long-term solution for living with avian influenza. Without the political will to back progress, industry faces unanswered questions around the scientific, logistical, and regulatory challenges wrapped up in vaccination.
- Government investment in sufficient resources and systems, including veterinarians.
- An urgent review of current contingency plans and requirements, such as the compensation scheme, to ensure structures are robust and fit to handle the intensity of this outbreak. This includes enabling greater responsibility-sharing with the sector.
- We maintain the importance of negotiating a form of veterinary (SPS) agreement with the EU to ease the current issues with trade under avian influenza. The current system is eroding British business viability. Without Government support to invest in sufficient resources and systems, including veterinarians, we can expect a detrimental effect on the British poultry meat sector’s ability to continue feeding the nation.
Please find a briefing note setting out how avian influenza-related challenges could be addressed with British business continuity and UK food supply at their core.2022-11-25-Living-With-Avian-Flu
Please find a recording of the EFRA Select Committee session on avian influenza below.