- Andrea GantzThe trade implications of avian influenza outbreaks in British Columbia will be tough to overcome, an industry leader says.
It could be as late as June before British Columbia farms are declared free of avian influenza, but recovering from the international trade implications may take far longer, says Robin Horel, head of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council.
Horel said a clean bill of health from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) would be “just the beginning” and that more work will be needed to resume international trade.
To date, 11 commercial poultry facilities in British Columbia have been affected by avian influenza, about half of which have been disinfected. However, Horel said the CFIA imposes a 21-day restriction before allowing birds back into barns. Restocking is followed by a three-month surveillance period, after which a farm can be labelled free of avian influenza.
The number of countries that have imposed trade restrictions on British Columbia poultry products has quietly climbed to more than two dozen since H5N2 avian influenza was first detected in two Fraser Valley farms in December 2014.
Since that initial outbreak, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, United States, Mexico, South Africa, Philippines, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Russia, Guatemala, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Brazil, Barbados, the European Union, Venezuela, Colombia, China and Vietnam have all implemented some sort of ban on poultry from British Columbia, and in some cases, Canada as a whole.
Between January and October of 2014, the total value of the now-banned exports to those jurisdictions surpassed $45 million, with the U.S., Taiwan and the Philippines making up the bulk of that trade.
Prior to December 2014, British Columbia’s last significant avian influenza scare occurred in 2004, when a highly pathogenic strain led to the culling of 17 million birds.
It took more than a year for international trading bans to be lifted, said Horel, adding that he anticipates a faster turnaround this time.