Commission promises aid for poultry sector

EU agriculture commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has called for additional powers to help poultry farmer suffering from market collapse in the wake of the H5N1 strain of avian flu.
“It is quite clear that the extent of the crisis cannot be handled effectively within the existing legal framework,” she told EU agriculture ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (20 Mar).
So far this year the EU Commission has made use of the only instrument at its disposal, increasing export refunds for poultry.
“But the effects of this were limited due to the fact that several Third countries have introduced import restrictions on our exports,” said the commissioner.
“The drop in consumption and prices needs to be tackled by providing the Commission with the necessary legal framework to intervene.”
Mrs Fischer Boel was vague on what she had in mind, though the quickest solution would be to introduce special market support measures.
These would be co-funded by the EU and national governments and would be targeted at poultry producers rather than those further down the food chain.
Mrs Fischer Boel said she would be presenting more specific proposals to agriculture ministers in the near future.
Meanwhile, the commissioner indicated that she would take a sympathetic view when considering various state aids already offered by member states to their poultry sectors.
The French government has so far put up €63m (£43m), including €20m (£14m) to affected poultry producers and €30m (£21m) to companies in the poultry sector.
Italy has come up with a €100m (£69m) rescue package, including money to offset farmers’ income losses and aid for stepping up bio-security.
Avian flu has now been found in 11 EU countries, namely Austria, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Sweden.
France is so far the only member state to have found H5N1 in commercial poultry flocks.