'Incredibly concerning' - Sixth bird flu case in Suffolk leads to new cull

A supplier has warned that bird flu and rising costs could cause egg production to cease

A supplier has warned that bird flu and rising costs could cause egg production to cease - Credit: Denise Bradley

The impact of bird flu and rising costs could hit egg production, a supplier has warned, as figures show that 150,000 birds have been culled in Suffolk as a result of virus outbreaks in March. 

Alastaire Brice, owner and director of Havensfield Eggs at Hoxne, said his business was set to lose money because of restrictions imposed to deal with six bird flu outbreaks in the county this month - at Westhorpe, Redgrave, Botesdale, Thelnetham, Woodbridge and Tuddenham. 

His company produces ‘free range’ eggs, a term that applies to birds that have spent time outdoors, but the lockdown measures imposed across the UK to keep birds indoors mean that the term can no longer be applied and his products now have to be referred to as ‘barn eggs’ instead. 

In addition, businesses are also facing pressures from rising production costs, which for some could make egg production commercially unviable in the future. 

Mr Brice called for supermarkets to do more to support the industry by ending price comparisons with rival chains that keep egg prices artificially low - the same price as 20 years ago - and leave producers unable to meet rising production costs. 

He said: “At the moment, we are sleepwalking into a much greater problem than bird flu because the avenues of producing eggs just don’t stack up anymore.  

“Six months down the line, it will fuel greater inflation because there are shortages of the product.” 

Sasha Watson, from Suffolk Trading Standards, is 'incredibly concerned' about the impact of bird flu

Sasha Watson, from Suffolk Trading Standards, is 'incredibly concerned' about the impact of bird flu - Credit: Archant

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Sasha Watson, community engagement officer with Suffolk Trading Standards, said free range egg producers with outbreaks were not just facing financial losses through culling their birds, but also the amount of time needed to restock their farms. 

She said: “We are incredibly concerned because there are more than 100 cases across the UK so this year has been the worst outbreak of bird flu that the UK has ever experienced so it has been devastating for poultry keepers big and small.” 

She provided a silver lining in that the virus had been introduced to the country by migratory birds, but the migration season was set to end during the warmer spring and summer months.  

A 3km protection zone and 10km surveillance zone are placed around premises affected by bird flu.