|A couple of chickens feed on a hobby farm in Maple Ridge, B.C., Monday, Apr. 5, 2004. Five Fraser Valley farms have been placed under quarantine and more than 140,000 turkeys and chickens will be euthanized. At least seven countries have banned poultry products from either B.C. or all of Canada. (RICHARD LAM/CP)|
Poultry producers across Canada are keeping an eye on the avian-flu situation in the Fraser Valley, but the outbreak has had little effect outside B.C., industry officials say.
Five Fraser Valley farms have been placed under quarantine and more than 140,000 turkeys and chickens will be euthanized. At least seven countries have banned poultry products from either B.C. or all of Canada.
The outbreak has stirred up memories of 2004, when avian flu led to the slaughter of 17 million chickens, turkeys and other domestic birds at more than 40 Fraser Valley farms. That outbreak cost the industry hundreds of millions of dollars.
Mike Dungate, executive director of the Chicken Farmers of Canada, said in an interview on Sunday that poultry producers in other provinces have yet to feel much impact as a result of the situation in B.C.
“People are on – I wouldn’t say high alert, but they’re on alert,” he said.
Mr. Dungate said about 6 or 7 per cent of poultry production in Canada is exported, with approximately half of that going to three countries – the United States, Taiwan and the Philippines.
He said that while the U.S. and Taiwan are among the countries that have imposed trade restrictions as a result of the latest outbreak, they’ve banned only products from B.C.
The Philippines has not imposed any restrictions, he said.
Mr. Dungate said his organization has spoken with members across the country and has not heard any complaints that the quarantined sites have put other farms in financial jeopardy.
“They understand that it could happen anywhere. I think if somebody thought that somebody wasn’t doing a good job and was putting them in peril because they weren’t doing a good job [there might be], but there’s no indication of that whatsoever,” he said.
Erna Ference, chair of the Alberta Chicken Producers, said her organization sent a notice to members to ensure they were aware of the B.C. situation. She said members were also told to heighten biosecurity measures.
“Any connections that they have with B.C., we want them to really follow through on that,” she said in an interview.
Ms. Ference said she would not expect Alberta to be significantly affected by the trade restrictions currently in place, since most of what is produced in the province stays in Canada.
A spokesman for B.C.’s Ministry of Agriculture said in an e-mail that the province does not yet have an estimate on the economic impact of the outbreak.
The federal agriculture ministry did not return a message seeking comment.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency, in a statement Saturday, said more farms may yet be quarantined. It said this is “normal and not unexpected.”
It has also noted avian flu does not pose a risk to food safety when poultry is properly handled and cooked. It has said avian flu rarely affects humans who do not have consistent contact with infected birds.