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Will Canadian Poultry Farmers Need Bird Flu Insurance?

07 May 2015

CANADA - A poultry industry-generated insurance is being considered in British Columbia to cover business losses and the cost of cleaning and disinfection after any future outbreak of bird flu.

The British Columbia poultry industry could soon be charging its own producers to pay for an insurance programme in case the avian flu comes back, reports Vancouver 24hrs.

The outbreak in late 2014 affected approximately 250,000 birds.

British Columbia Poultry Association president, Ray Nickel, said many farmers – even if their premises were not infected – were stuck inside the quarantine zone, putting them months behind without compensation.

He said: “On farms directly affected, the compensation from federal government may be enough to help you with birds on site destroyed, but by the time you get stuff back on the market it can take you a long time.

“Farms within the one-kilometre zone but unaffected were under quarantine – they could not place new flocks ... for example, on chickens you place six flocks a year, roughly, if you can’t place one of those that’s one-sixth of your income.”

The industry-generated insurance would help cover cleaning, disinfecting costs and business interruptions, Mr Nickel said, adding the industry had determined preliminary rates with underwriters last year before being surprised by the outbreak.

Harvey Sasaki is a former assistant deputy minister in the Ministry of Agriculture currently working as a consultant for the industry.

Part of the work involves getting the four pillars of poultry – broiler hatching egg producers, egg producers, turkey growers and chicken growers – to come together with their own proposed terms.

Mr Sasaki explained: “The cattle industry, unlike poultry, isn't regulated the same way. It’s not a supply-managed commodity. This is where there’s an advantage for supply management – you have to be a registered producer to produce eggs, turkey, hatchlings and you can mandate that requirement for insurance.

“Because of the proximity of the different types of production of poultry and the susceptibility to avian influenza, this is what makes this one unique. It is four sectors working together, it's that interdependence they have with each other.”

Such a pitch has gained support from both sides of the political spectrum.

The province's Agricultural Minister, Norm Letnick, and New Democratic Party agriculture critic, Lana Popham, agreed legislative changes to allow industry-owned insurance should be passed.

The Minister told Vancouver 24hrs: “The proposed amendments will enable marketing boards and commissions to require that their producer-members participate in a mandatory buyer security insurance program and apply an administrative penalty for those that fail to comply.”

Ms Popham added: “This legislation probably would have been very useful if it was brought in before the latest avian flu outbreak.” 

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), there have been three outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza this year. All were in Oxford county, Ontario and started between 7 and 23 April; two turkey flocks were affected (44,800 and 7,900 birds) and a flock of 27,000 broiler breeders.

In December 2014, there were 11 outbreaks of avian flu in commercial poultry flocks in British Columbia, affecting a total of 245,600 birds, according to the CFIA, as well as two non-commercial flocks with a total of 180 birds.

Further Reading

You can visit the Avian Flu page by clicking here.

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