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UK Farmers hopeful of containment

by 5m Editor
7 February 2007, at 10:34am

YORKSHIRE - Yorkshire poultry and egg farmers remained optimistic last night, in the face of the first mass outbreak of bird flu in Britain.

Farmers across the industry said they were keeping a close eye on events at the Bernard Matthews turkey farm in Suffolk, but said they were happy with the response of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Many received text messages telling them about the outbreak just moments after potentially deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu was confirmed, and all felt optimistic that the virus would be confined to Suffolk.

There are no mass turkey producers in Yorkshire, and those who do supply free-range birds over the Christmas period are not due to take delivery of their chicks until June at the earliest.

Egg producers said sales were at an all-time high, with more than one saying they felt the public had "got wise to food scares". Paul Stephens, a poultry farmer who keeps about 170,000 broiler chickens kept for meat, said he was not worried about the spread of avian flu. He was more concerned about how isolated outbreaks could affect the market.

The farmer, at West Heslerton, near Malton, said: "When all this kicked off 15 months ago the British public kept eating chicken, but in Italy and France consumption was down by 70 per cent. We were over there at the time and chicken wasn't even on the menu at any restaurants.

"Their surplus chickens were shipped to the UK and flooded the market, which of course had an effect on UK sales. If I have any concerns it's that we could get a situation like that again."

Mr Stephens said poultry farms were already virus-secure. "Avian influenza is just another virus, and there are thousands of them which farmers have to keep away from their flocks. We have tight controls to stop viruses spreading already," he said.

Source: Yorkshire Today

5m Editor