Avian flu: in the Gers, the SOS for breeders in distress

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Gathered within the framework of a national action led by the Confédération paysanne, several independent breeders from the Gers expressed their dismay following the dramatic consequences of avian flu on their activity. They call for awareness.

We naively believed that the worst was over. In reality, for many poultry and waterfowl breeders, the worst is undoubtedly yet to come, even though a limitation of production is already envisaged by four Chambers of Agriculture in 68 municipalities in the South West. In any case, this is the observation made by many professionals after a devastating episode of avian flu (16 million poultry slaughtered in six months in France, it should be remembered). “We are experiencing the trough in production now. The economic consequences, we will start to feel them”, warns Simon Graf, outdoor poultry breeder in Estipouy.

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Avian flu: a production restriction envisaged in 68 municipalities in the South-West, including 8 in the Gers

Nicely named “Cocoribio”, his farm was the theater on Friday 1er July of an action carried out by the Confédération paysanne, in the presence of its national spokesperson Nicolas Girod, breeder of dairy cows in the Jura. Around the table, several breeders were able to share their painful experience after suffering the full brunt of the epizootic, starting with the host of this day. Simon Graf thus had to wait until May 16 to put it back in place, after more than three months of crawl space imposed by the state services. A disproportionate measure according to him, given the low risk incurred on his farm, which produces an average of 600 to 700 organic poultry per week. “Self-breeding has proven that our production system can fight disease,” he says.

Simon Graf is an organic poultry farmer in Estipouy.

In the game of comparisons, Simon Graf knows however that he is not the worst off. Some comrades are still on technical unemployment, and probably for many months, like Charles-Henri Roussel. Today on antidepressants, this duck breeder in Astarac watched helplessly as his 850 waterfowl were slaughtered in February and is not about to receive any new ducklings. “Of the 1800 ducks that I must make in a normal year to supply my customers, I was only able to make 400 before February. Today, I am not promised ducklings before, at best, the month of December.” His hard-won place at the Christmas market in Montbeliard is threatened. “It’s something that took me 35 years to build and that I saw crumble in one day,” he laments.

“The roadmap did not work”

Others have thrown in the towel altogether, like the couple formed by Isabelle and Luc Combina. A duck and pig breeder in Samaran, the latter made headlines at the end of February by degrading a vehicle belonging to police officers. Departmental Directorate for Employment, Labour, Solidarity and Population Protection in the Gers (DDESTPP) after an unexpected check. A regrettable stroke of blood which had earned him police custody and a fine of 500 euros, not to mention compensation for the damage. “It was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he breathes. Faced with this new disappointment, the couple decided to abandon the breeding of ducks and pigs to focus only on cereals, Isabelle Combina having also chosen to retrain as a teacher.

The action was led by the Confédération paysanne and its spokespersons, Nicolas Girod and Sylvie Colas (in the foreground).

The action was led by the Confédération paysanne and its spokespersons, Nicolas Girod and Sylvie Colas (in the foreground).

This growing despair among breeders, independent or industrial, raises questions for the future of the poultry sector, exposed for several years to the recurrence of avian flu. “It’s an economic disaster that we can’t repeat. What we’re saying is that the roadmap didn’t work. The fact of removing the outdoor exemption for us has nothing Worse: we have five times more homes than in other years and above all we have the Pays de Loire and Vendée area which has exploded with more than 800 homes, “said Sylvie Colas, spokesperson for the Confédération paysanne du Gers. For her, there is no doubt: like Covid-19, we will now have to live with the epizootic and adapt production methods to deal with it. “We must question all the modeling of poultry farming. This lesson we have from avian flu should question us about our whole relationship to living things and to agriculture”, she concludes.

An alternative roadmap proposed to the minister

If a reflection has been initiated by the Chambers of Agriculture of the South-West on a possible limitation of production next season, in certain municipalities, this does not yet go far enough in the eyes of the Peasant Confederation. To defend its model, the agricultural union has therefore proposed an alternative roadmap to Marc Fresneau, Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty, who is to announce measures this month regarding the fight against avian flu. “Claustration doesn’t work. It’s a human, economic and food tragedy,” says national spokesperson Nicolas Girod, who proposes three major measures: “end compulsory confinement, better target the measures to be put in place and initiate an evolution of the entire sector.”

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