There are real concerns that Avian Influenza is set to majorly restrict gamebird imports from France this year.
Currently in the UK, a large amount of partridge and pheasant are imported from France. This year, however, it is expected that the UK shooting sector will be significantly impacted by the critical Avian Influenza situation and the lion’s share of egg and chick imports from France are likely to not be allowed for the foreseeable future.
There are, however, continuous conversations around importation licensing.
This comes as a result of an influx of AI cases in France. Just in the last week there have been 222 cases between the Vendée and the Alantique region, both well-known for their breeding birds, ducks, geese and chickens. Currently, of the positive cases, 60 per cent of sites are in breeding ducks, 10 per cent turkeys, and the remainder in a multitude of different species.
Early in the bird flu outbreak the French government ordered the cull of nearly 2 million birds in the southwest of the country to stem the spread of the disease. This worked well and enabled the area to restock with birds quickly, but the situation is deteriorating.
There is still hope with areas of Europe that are able to plug some of the gap, and this has been working to a certain level. Realistically, it looks as though the rearing season will be a long late season with pheasant poults being delivered into September with shoots that are willing to accept this.
As an overall effect on the UK shooting sector, it is estimated that UK businesses this coming season will see a 30 to 40 per cent fall, worse than the results of COVID-19.
Dr Kenny Nutting, director of St David’s Game Bird Services, said “We are completely committed to supporting the sector during these challenging times, which is why we have decided to offer free advice visits to help businesses manage the current and future AI situations.
“In these visits we will discuss health and welfare targets and outcomes, look at how your business could become more efficient in light of rising costs and labour shortages. Due to our wide geographical coverage of the UK, Ireland and international work we are well linked with various committees, shooting agents and organisations, which enables us to have a good grasp of the major challenges both current and ahead of us.
“Alongside this, we are having regular contact with DEFRA, to have the latest information to help our clients rapidly and effectively respond to the current situation.”
The AI situation is fluid, but a delay in the government making a concrete decision is extremely frustrating for all, as many game farms and shoots are trying to make final decisions now on what they do for the rest of the season. The St David’s vets are currently busy visiting lots of game farms and shoots to talk through the current challenges and find the best ways to progress forward.