Avian Influenza: Ruffley demands Government support for Suffolk's poultry farmers

Monday, 5 February, 2007

David Ruffley MP has today written to David Miliband, Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, asking what support the Government will be giving to Suffolk farmers following the outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza at a poultry farm in the county.

East Anglia is the biggest producer of eggs, including those from free-range and organic hens, in Britain. The area is also a major supplier of poultry meat, including free-range chicken, turkey and duck.

Britain faces the loss of £370 million in export trade in meat and live birds after the arrival of the avian flu virus in the poultry industry.

Russia and Japan have already moved to ban British poultry imports and others are expected to follow.

David said:

'This outbreak of avian influenza could be a hammer blow to the livelihoods of many hard working poultry farmers across Suffolk.

'Questions of course need to be asked about whether we had stringent enough procedures in place and if the Government responded quickly enough to the crisis. However, much of my immediate concern is for the Suffolk jobs and Suffolk livelihoods that will be on the line due to this outbreak.

'There is very little chance of the H5N1 virus passing to the human population and I gather that none of the infected birds entered the food chain. However, public confidence in poultry products will inevitably be dented and this will quickly hurt the many poultry farmers in East Anglia.

'Therefore, I have today written to David Miliband MP, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, asking not only what steps his department is taking to ensure the containment of this outbreak but also what support he will be offering Suffolk's poultry farmers and what he intends to do to make sure any bans on British poultry imports are lifted as soon as possible.

'I would urge my constituents not to be influenced by the media storm surrounding this issue and to support Suffolk's farmers by continuing to purchase poultry from their local supermarket.'