Poultry import ban amid avian influenza outbreak in Denmark

By Poorna Rodrigo

- Last updated on GMT

Denmark's 2008 bird flu outbreak cost the country nearly $30m in losses
Denmark's 2008 bird flu outbreak cost the country nearly $30m in losses

Related tags European union Poultry

Singapore, Japan and South Korea have stopped poultry imports from Denmark after an avian influenza virus (H5N8) outbreak affected the country’s entire poultry sector. 

This is the first outbreak of the virus in Denmark since 2006, the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration, (Fødevarestyrelsen - FVST) told GlobalMeatNews.

The majority of infected birds have been in south-eastern Denmark, near the Baltic Sea coast, with cases less prevalent in western Denmark, FVST deputy head, animal health division Stig Mellergaard said, admitting that “the virus has now spread across the country.​” Nearly 35 ducks caught the virus in a backyard poultry flock in Ålsgårde, in Helsingør, Zealand, north of Copenhagen, early this week, he said adding all infected birds had been killed.

Initially, Denmark was alerted to the disease when the virus was detected among wild birds in neighbouring European countries, the FVST said in a note on 8 November.

Two days later, on 10 November the FVST said H5N8 virus​ was found in wild birds in two localities in Denmark.

Heavy losses

In an attempt to contain the situation, “mandatory confinement​” of all birds has been ordered, except ducks and geese, game birds and ostriches who can be kept outside but must be fed under roof, Mellergaard said.

During the 2006 outbreak, the country’s poultry industry suffered heavily, and lost nearly DKK200 million (US$28.37m). “We hope it won’t be a repeat of 2006,​” one poultry industry expert (who did not want to be named) told GlobalMeatNews​, adding that the swift compartmentalisation of avian flocks in Denmark could help reduce the damage.

On a positive note, no European countries have yet banned poultry imports from Denmark, said Mellergaard.

Production falling

Denmark is not major poultry producer compared to some other European countries, according to data from European Union (EU) statistical agency Eurostat. In 2014, the EU produced 13 million tonnes of poultry meat, 9% more than in 2007, Eurostat said. “Four countries together produced half of the EU’s poultry meat [in 2014],​” said a note from the agency, “Poland produced 13.9% of the EU-28 total, France accounted for 12.9%, closely followed by the UK at 12.6% and Germany at 11.8%.​”

A Danish Agriculture and Food Council report, published in 2015, said that poultry production in Denmark dropped from 205 million kg in 2000 to 193 million kg in 2010 and 188 million kg in 2012 before production picked up slightly to 191 million kg in 2013.

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