Poultry giants hit by multiple AI outbreaks in Russia

By Ashley Williams

- Last updated on GMT

Russia has been hit with a series of avian flu outbreaks
Russia has been hit with a series of avian flu outbreaks

Related tags Poultry

Russian agricultural holdings Cherkizovo and Damate have been affected by a series of outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI), which were reported in four regions of the country.

Cherkizovo, the second-biggest broiler meat producer in Russia, has culled all poultry stock at the Vertunoskyi poultry farm in Penza Oblast due to AI, Larisa Mokshina, a spokesperson for the company, told GlobalMeatNews​.

That was an isolated farm producing hatching eggs for the company’s internal needs, according to Mokshina. The nearest poultry farm growing broilers for sale is located 200km away from the affected production facility.

Cherkizovo was hit by AI despite huge investments in biosecurity. Over the past two years, the company has allocated RUB3 billion ($50m) to protect its production assets from biological threats, according to Mokshina.

The company’s total loss from the outbreak has been estimated at RUB100m ($1.5m). Russian newspaper Vedomosti​ reported that the company had culled 290,000 chickens, or 7- 10% of its total parent flock. Citing a source in the company, Vedomosti​ claimed the loss would force the company to start importing parent flocks. Cherkizovo had not issued any comment on that information to GlobalMeatNews​ by press time.

Damate faced a similar situation, as the AI outbreak was reported at a poultry farm in Penza Oblast, located away from the company’s other production facilities, Damate said in a statement on its website on 21 June. The company, which is the biggest turkey meat producer in Russia, had to cull 470,000 turkeys, or 10% of its total turkey population.

The outbreaks have incurred Damate losses of RUB400m ($6.5m). As a result, the company said it would not be able to achieve the growth in production volumes originally scheduled for the coming months. Damate had planned to maintain its current production levels at 5,500 to 6,000 tonnes per month.

Elena Firsova, spokesperson for Damate, has not provided any further information to GlobalMeatNews​.

The tip of the iceberg

Damate raised concerns that the AI epidemic had been taking place in Penza Oblast since early June, but the company had not been notified about it in time.

Russian veterinary body Rosselkhoznadzor confirmed that AI originally emerged in smallholdings in the Penza region. As of 27 June, AI outbreaks were also confirmed in the Kursk, Samara and Orel regions, while the exact number of poultry farms affected is yet to be revealed.

After conducting laboratory tests, Rosselkhoznadzor issued a statement, saying that the identified strain of the virus posed no danger to human health. It was already known that meat infected with AI had hit grocery shelves, with some batches of infected product found in the city of Ufa, in a region that is officially free from AI.

Several countries, including Belarus, Kazakhstan and UAE, have restricted poultry imports from the affected regions of Russia. Both Cherkizovo and Damate do supply some poultry products to export markets, but the companies have not said if the restrictions were likely to affect their operations.

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