Three weeks without any new farms affected by bird flu. Breeders and the entire poultry industry are blowing away. This Wednesday, June 8, the Ministry of Agriculture announced that the whole of France was once again at risk. “ insignificant ». Ducks and chickens that had to be confined to avoid contact with wild birds will be allowed to leave. Only the departments of Dordogne, Vendée, Maine-et-Loire and Loire-Atlantique, the most recently affected, will have to wait a little longer.
But the calm is relative, after a devastating storm. “ The swing is cataclysmic », believes Barbara Dufour, a specialist in contagious diseases and professor at the veterinary school in Alfort. For this fourth episode of avian influenza in France, 1,378 outbreaks were recorded on farms and 16 million birds had to be culled. That’s almost three times more outbreaks and more than four times more birds culled than during the 2020-2021 winter crisis. considered catastrophic at the time.
Above all, the Pays de la Loire was hit hard for the first time. It is from this region that almost three quarters of the ducklings come. To have new ones, you need to breed breeders, create new lines to get ducklings. “ It will take at least fifteen months before a normal situation is restored. »says Marie-Pierre Pé, President of cifogthe interprofession foie gras. “ Production volumes are estimated to decrease by 50 % This year. » Guinea fowl and turkey production is also hit hard.
“ Producers throw in the towel »
“ This crisis will reverberate for almost two more years at all levels of the sector. »worries Sylvie Colas, spokeswoman for the Confédération paysanne du Gers. “ Meanwhile, how many creators will disappear ? » The Confédération paysanne fears that small farmers will be the first to be affected, in particular because they are less likely to be supported by their bank while awaiting state aid. in the Landes, “ We note that requests for RSA by farmers are increasing and aviary sales are exploding »adds Christophe Mesplède of the Department’s Family Farmers Defense Movement. “ Producers are throwing in the towel. »
“ I shot the last duck today [mardi 7 juin]i will have new ducklings only at the end of july if i have them »explains Jean-François Roudier, secretary of the Peasant Confederation of Dordogne. “ I will start tearing down and producing again in November at best. Until then, this represents a loss of 5,000 to 7,000 euros per week. I have two employees who no longer have a job as of next week. »
- In 2021, in the Landes, these free-range ducks were loaded onto the veterinary services truck and then slaughtered.
The State has already started paying aid to breeders. The Ministry of Agriculture did the math on Tuesday, June 7th. To compensate for the slaughter of birds, 54 million euros were distributed, but in all the amounts paid it could be close to 190 million euros. On the economic aid side, only the North and Southwest, the first contaminated areas, began to affect them. 17 million were paid out of the 33 million planned for these regions. The hatcheries, that is, the farms where the eggs are hatched, have an aid of 121 million euros reserved for them. There are still uncertainties in relation to aid for other regions, downstream of the sector, egg producers.
The bill will be salted. “ The crisis will cost 1.5 billion euros », estimates Sylvie Colas at the Confédération paysanne, which is about three times more than in other years. all this “ is proof of the ineffectiveness of last year’s script »adds his colleague Denis Perreau.
This roadmap provided for a set of health measures to accurately prevent disasters. Discussions have already begun within the profession to modify it before next September and the possible next episode of avian flu. A first meeting is scheduled at the ministry for the 15th of June with the poultry interprofessions.
The race for increasingly stringent biosecurity measures
In 2021, the Confédération paysanne signed it, “ because we were told that our proposals would be taken into account, but that was not the case. We were rolled in flour ». So there were no exceptions “ shelter » poultry, bringing free-range birds into buildings. The confinement was asked to breeders in mid-October. However, the flu has hit harder than ever. “ Confinement is ineffective, we don’t want to hear about it anymore »reacts Sylvie Colas. “ Except in certain areas of particular risk. »
The fear is of a race for increasingly strict biosecurity measures, requiring new investments from breeders. Respecting these measures is more complicated for small outdoor producers. “ With these crises, the industry presses to impose new biosafety rules »denounces Christophe Mesplède. “ They want to eliminate the know-how of outdoor farms. The State must arbitrate and grant derogations to small producers. »
“ The state must give exemptions to small producers »
The Confédération paysanne accuses the industrial practices of large farms in buildings of being responsible for the crisis. In the rearing of ducks, these are specialized. Some raise the ducklings, others bring them to adulthood, and finally a third link force-feeds them. They are also integrated into cooperatives that deliver feed, send teams to pick up ducks for transport and have to change straws twice a day in their large buildings. All these movements must comply with biosafety standards. “ Nothing has been implemented to make them more reliable »denounces Sylvie Colas. “ When you think that in the midst of the crisis, contaminated hatcheries continued to send ducklings to areas unharmed… We want to make money at all costs with the risk of seeing everything fall apart. »
- At the entrance of an intensive farm in the Landes. © Alain Pitton / Reporterre
Scientists from ANSES (national health security agency) have not yet taken stock of this crisis. Barbara Dufour, chair of the expert group responsible for regularly considering avian influenza, begins personal observation. She recalls that the introduction of the virus involves contact between wild and domestic birds. “ Outdoor farms increase the risk of introduction », she says. The whole challenge, then, is to limit the outbreak to a single farm, to prevent it from spreading to others. There, the context is different depending on the type of creation. “ If there are many outdoor farms nearby, the virus can spread step by step. But if the farms are self-sufficient [les canards y sont élevés du stade canetons jusqu’à l’abattage] and remote, the outdoors is not the most important risk factor. »
For creation in buildings and in the long chain, “ there are many ups and downs that pose significant risks », she points. It only takes a pair of poorly disinfected boots that have been stepped on in a contaminated environment to bring the virus back. And it is even more likely to find a contaminated environment that “ the number of animals is greater in a limited space – therefore in particular in a building – and that therefore there are more viruses produced ». Ventilation spreads the virus throughout the building. This is how the Vendée was affected, despite the recent and standard creation. “ Confinement was done, but biosecurity around infected farms was probably not sufficient given the importance of contamination. »adds the teacher.
“ We have to deconcentrate, there are many farms and many birds in each farm »
One crucial criterion, however, is common to all types of farms. “ There is a very high risk when there is a high density of farms and animals per farm in the same area. My point of view is therefore that we should deconcentrate » — thus reducing the number of holdings but also the number of animals per square metre.
This is a point where the foie gras sector started to work. In the Landes, seventy municipalities have been identified with high livestock density: it is expected that during the critical period, around December 15th to January 15th, breeders will organize themselves so that there are far fewer birds in the area. There should be fewer farms and fewer ducks in France ? The matter is sensitive to the Ministry of Agriculture, which specifies that this “ be sustainable for France. »
“ We also want work on the distances traveled by animalsadds Julien Mora, from the Movement for the Defense of Family Farmers (Modef) in the Landes. We’ll look for ducks in the depths of the Cantal to bring them to Aveyron or Gers. We are asking for zoning so that supplies are made locally. »
Another hope lies in the vaccine, which now appears to have consensus. The experiments were launched and the Ministry of Agriculture promised the first results for “ end of 2022 at the latest ».
Meanwhile, concern is already mounting for the upcoming season. The international avian flu alert system makes it possible to assess in advance the level of risk for the next season. “ This summer we will be quiet so we will see in August where the virus is in northern Europe »explains Barbara Dufour.