Farmers left at major risk with no insurance for bird flu

Poultry farmers are facing major hikes in the cost of insurance and, in some instances, are operating without insurance at all, as insurers have restricted the availability of cover in the wake of the ongoing avian influenza crisis. 

Since 1 October 2022, the Animal and Plant Health Agency (Apha) has confirmed 186 cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in the UK, with millions of birds dying or being culled on farm.

See also: Northern Ireland lifts compulsory bird flu biosecurity rules

One poultry farmer based in Dorset told Farmers Weekly that he cannot get hold of insurance, and if he did get bird flu in one of his flocks, it would bankrupt the business.

“It’s very worrying, you just can’t get insurance for it,” he added.

“If our flock was to get it, the clean-out costs for the sheds alone are estimated at between £200,00-£300,000.”

A second poultry farmer producing free-range eggs said that his insurance had doubled in price for half the cover they previously had during the past year.

He said: “Every farmer I’m aware of is hugely exposed and I think that’s certainly part of why you are seeing a shortfall in eggs. The risk on the farmers through all of this is just insane.”

Some other farmers can’t even get insurance at all and are taking a huge risk, he added.


While some insurers have hiked up premiums on policies, others have pulled out of the market altogether.

An NFU Mutual spokesperson said: “Due to the current situation, avian influenza cover through our insurance partner is not currently open for new customers. However, now that the migration season passed, we are in preliminary discussions about future cover for new customers.

“We continue to monitor the situation and remain committed to supporting our existing customers and providing them with the best outcomes available.”

The insurance provider added that it was pleased that its avian influenza insurance policy has been able to financially help those that benefited from it when affected by an outbreak on their site.

NFU Mutual’s current policies for avian influenza can cover bird mortality, loss of income, and cleaning costs.

Government compensation

Compensation is available from Apha for the loss of poultry culled to control the spread of bird flu.

However, this compensation is only available for healthy birds and is not available for birds that are sick or have died.

In some instances, it can take several days between Apha first being notified of an outbreak by a farmer and then Apha coming out onto farm, with the disease spreading further through the flock during this period.

A group of farmers is currently planning on taking Apha to court in an attempt to ensure that birds which become ill or die between the time when Apha are notified of the disease and the time they come out on farm are compensated for.