Outbreaks of H5N8 in Europe raise concerns in Post Soviet Union block

By Vladislav Vorotnikov

- Last updated on GMT

Ukraine says the ban will have virtually no impact on the domestic poultry meat market in the country
Ukraine says the ban will have virtually no impact on the domestic poultry meat market in the country

Related tags Poultry meat Avian influenza Ukraine Livestock Poultry

Ukraine has banned imports of poultry from the UK, the Netherlands and Germany, due to outbreaks of the avian influenza H5N8 strain, according to the country’s State Veterinary and Phytosanitary Service (Gosvetphitosluzba).

Other countries in the region also expressed concerns over the threat of the further spread of the virus and may also impose import restrictions soon.

"According to official information from the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany cases of the highly pathogenic avian influenza have been recorded, with a high mortality [of birds] and the risk of human infection,"​ according to the report from Gosvetphitosluzba.

"Taking into account the dangerous situation and in order to prevent the introduction of the causative agent of the disease in the territory of Ukraine, Gosvetphitosluzba has banned all poultry imports from these countries to Ukraine,"​ said the statement, adding that the restrictions will remain in force until the OIE reports that these countries are free from bird flu.

Ukraine experts note that the ban will have virtually no impact on the domestic poultry meat market in the country. According to official information from the country’s State Statistics Service, in recent years these countries accounted for less than 8% of poultry meat import to Ukraine – about 6,000-8,000 tonnes per year.

However, representatives of Gosvetphitosluzba noted that the risk of importation of the virus into Ukraine remained quite high.

"Even with the imposed ban, the European Union has a common Customs space, which reduces the number of barriers to the spread of the disease. As such, Ukraine’s veterinary service is likely to strengthen controls over the supply of poultry meat from Europe,"​ said a source from Gosvetphitosluzba.

"Ukraine is one of the largest poultry producers in Europe, and has gradually become a major exporter, so it is obvious that the penetration of bird flu in Ukraine could cause serious damage to the country’s poultry industry,"​ he added.

Outbreaks of avian influenza in Europe have caused concerns among almost all the countries in the former Soviet republic territory. There are rumours that Belarus and Kazakhstan are also considering restrictive measures on poultry imports from the EU. Concerns about avian influenza have been also expressed in the Baltic countries.

"The probability of dangerous bird flu is also relevant for our poultry breeders, so we called all the country’s poultry farms and businesses to review and tighten biological security measures. Farmers are advised to isolate domestic poultry to protect them from contact with the wild birds,"​ said Arturas Shimkus, deputy head of Lithuania’s State Food and Veterinary Service emergency response department.

Representatives of Russian state veterinary service Rosselkhoznadzor also claim that "imports of poultry meat from Europe are already banned and now the veterinary department is mostly focused on the fight against the threat of penetration of the H5N1 and other strains of bird flu virus from south-east Asia".​ The first outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza in four years was discovered in Russia in October on the Altai Krai farm, located close to the Chinese border.

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