EU announces plan to compensate poultry farmers for bird flu

Britain must agree to co-finance the arrangements, MEP says

Brussels, 29 March 2006 -- The European Commission announcement of EU funding for measures to support poultry farmers whose production is affected by the ongoing threat of bird flu has been welcomed by Sir Robert Atkins MEP, Conservative Deputy Leader in the European Parliament. Because the arrangements would be co-financed, Sir Robert has called on the British government to make funding available for farmers affected by the spread of the disease.

European agriculture commissioner, Mariann Fischer Boel, has brought forward urgent regulations to enable compensation for eggs and poultry where there is a case of bird flu on a farm or where farmers are prevented from moving poultry because of restrictions imposed by veterinary orders. EU member states would submit a proposal for funding and the European Commission would meet half the costs, whilst the other half would be funded by the member states themselves.

Consumer confidence in poultry has been dramatically compromised in EU countries where an outbreak has been confirmed. In Italy there has been an almost 70 percent reduction in poultry consumption and many British poultry farmers are concerned poultry could flood the British market where confidence is comparatively high. Introducing measures to reduce production of poultry across the EU will have a positive effect for British poultry farmers whether or not their stocks are afflicted with the disease.

Sir Robert said:

"The European Union is taking action to protect the poultry industry across Europe and the British government should do all it can to support the moves.

"Falling consumption in other EU countries will hit UK markets if unwanted poultry from abroad starts to flood into the UK. Other EU countries will be able to use this new funding to reduce their own poultry production while compensating farmers for their losses.

"There are over 800 million chickens in the UK and the poultry industry is very important to our economy. The British government will have the chance to put in place a system that will see our farmers through these difficult times and Gordon Brown should immediately agree to co-finance applications for assistance."

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