As the UK is added to the list of EU countries that have had a case of avian flu, many poultry farmers are asking what compensation would be available should the disease strike commercial flocks.

According to ADAS poultry team leader Stephen Edge, compensation is only payable for healthy birds, slaughtered by
DEFRA as part of a disease control programme.

This would be the case whether they were on an infected premises or one that was deemed to be a “dangerous contact”.

The decision to cull adjacent farms would be made on a case-by-case basis – there are no plans to undertake a blanket contiguous cull around an infected unit.

“Compensation is only paid in respect of healthy birds at the time of the cull, based on market values,” says Mr Edge.

There would be no compensation for birds that died of the disease.

With regard to clean-up costs, DEFRA only pays for the primary clean-up, disinfection of the litter and all surfaces within the house.

It also organises and pays for the removal of dead birds.

But, while DEFRA supervises the secondary clean-up (litter removal, wash down etc), the producer meets the cost.

But further aid could be on the horizon, as the EU Commission is poised to sanction compensation for income losses associated with the fall in demand for poultry.

This is in response to an initial 70% drop in consumption in Italy and 30% fall in France.

EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel intends to introduce such a scheme in early May, after approval by the European parliament and EU farm ministers.

“In my view, the most sensible approach would be to compensate farmers for measures which temporarily reduce production,” she said, hinting at the destruction of hatching eggs and young chicks.

This aid would be co-financed by Brussels and national governments, though it would be up to member states to make a case.

So far the UK poultry market has been more resilient, so it seems unlikely that DEFRA would be looking to use such a scheme, especially given that it has to be co-funded.