Europe poultry exports plummet as region experiences one of the largest Avian Influenza epidemics ever

EUROPE –  Poultry exports from Europe decreased significantly following the  February-May 2021 European High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) season described as “one of the largest and most devastating HPAI epidemics ever occurred in Europe.”

According to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture, the 2020-2021 HPAI epidemic counts 3,555 detected infections in 27 European countries including 22 EU member states, Norway, Serbia, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

USDA notes that the epicenter of the HPAI epidemic appears to have been in Germany and Poland, with the former country detecting the largest number of infections in wild birds (603) and the latter the largest number of outbreaks in farm flocks (297).

During this period, sixteen different HPAI genotypes were found, indicating a high level of virus reassortment.

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In economic terms, the impact of this HPAI epidemic on the EU poultry market remained limited, except in Poland, where poultry production in 2021 is forecast to decrease by 12 percent compared to 2020.

Nevertheless, EU poultry exports decreased significantly following the HPAI findings as many poultry importing countries banned imports from affected EU Member States.

Recent data from Gain showed that chicken meat exports from EU and the UK declined overall by 4.6 percent driven by a 20 percent drop in exports to Ukraine, 32 percent drop to South Africa, 40 percent drop to Vietnam, and a 66 percent drop to China.

Poland, the worst affected nation, saw exports to South Africa plunge 92 from 79,000 MT in 2019 to less than 5,000 MT in CY 2020 because of the export ban due to the HPAI outbreak.

Local consumption also decreased by two percent in CY 2020 as increased chicken meat sales at the retail level did not make up for the losses in the HRI sector.

Following the outbreak, the European Food Safety Agency has released report detailing the chronology of the AI detections and measures taken country by country.

The authors of the report have highlighted the need for strict biosafety controls on farms given this severe HPAI epidemic.

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