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Due to the bird flu epidemic, chicken production could drop by 30%

A historic health crisis. The avian flu epizootic that has been raging in France since the end of November 2021 is decimating poultry flocks. Five months after its appearance, the H5N1 virus continues to circulate on the territory and the counter of cases, to turn. On Wednesday April 20, he counted a total of 1,315 outbreaks of avian influenza. An unprecedented shock, which will be reflected on the shelves of supermarkets. Supply tensions will, in fact, be strong, on poultry, on eggs, on foie gras.

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The French leader in chicken, the Sarthois group LDC, with its brands Loué, Maître Coq or Le Gaulois, recently issued a warning. “A fall in volumes on the poultry market of around 30% is expected for the coming months”, he anticipated in a financial press release published on April 7. An unprecedented situation for the French poultry sector.

Mass slaughter of animals

The sky for chicken, turkey or guinea fowl breeders suddenly darkened when the H5N1 virus hit Vendée at the end of February. This department alone now concentrates 529 homes, or nearly 40% of the number of cases listed on the territory. The epizootic then spread to Pays de la Loire. As a result, the second poultry producing region in France, behind Brittany, found itself touched to the heart. “Between 15 and 18 million poultry will be slaughtered in this territory”, says Gilles Huttepain, vice-president of the poultry interprofession Anvol. However, he is pleased that the fear of an extension to Brittany has not materialized. Only six farms were infected between Ille-et-Vilaine, Morbihan and, recently, Finistère.

This massive slaughter of animals, linked to the destruction of sick livestock but also to preventive depopulation measures in the affected areas, in fact reduces the number of poultry marketed. But the impact on production volumes is only beginning to be felt. The depopulation is currently continuing while cases are still appearing in Vendée and Pays de la Loire. It will then be necessary to establish a crawl space before returning animals to the farms. Then you have to count the growth time of the poultry, that is, for example, twelve weeks for a label chicken.

“He will miss production for three or four months from May”, believes Mr. Huttepain. According to him, several avenues are being studied to try to cushion the violent air pocket: favor the production of chickens to the detriment of turkeys, guinea fowl, quails and other meat ducks, which will therefore be even rarer on the shelves; try to increase volumes from regions not affected by the virus, or even put chickens in place as soon as possible on farms that were waiting for summer to start a cycle of festive poultry.

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