latest restrictions lifted, but Dordogne duck and goose farmers are still far from out of the woods

Nearly 330,000 poultry euthanized, around fifty outbreaks detected and more than 450 municipalities impacted: the Dordogne has paid a heavy price for the avian influenza epidemic which crossed France this winter. If it can be done, the return to normal will be very long, the duckling farms having also been decimated.

There were 16 million euthanized poultry in France. In Dordogne, where the epizootic began in April, 45 outbreaks were detected and more than 450 municipalities impacted. After three months of “standstill”, when the situation seems to have stabilized for the long term and the bans have been lifted, the dozens of local farms are starting to repopulate.

At Granges d’Ans, at the Domaine de Loqueyssie Denis and Valérie Dumaure consider themselves relatively privileged. On their farm, they raise, process and market their ducks themselves. Of the thousand waterfowl they usually raise, they have succeeded in obtaining more than half. 280 ducklings arrived three weeks ago, 280 others arrived yesterday. Enough to ensure part of their activity for the end of year celebrations.

And if they were able to half fill their parks, it is partly because unlike their colleagues they do not raise mule ducks, the traditional “fatty duck” in Périgord (and 90% of national production), but Muscovy ducks, less common. And their duckling supplier based in Ain did not suffer from bird flu.

We are happy! We are happy and at the same time we are well aware that we are privileged, that we were able to have our first batches of ducks, this is not the case for all our colleagues!

Valérie, Dumaure breeder in Granges-d’Ans

The other farms in the department are not all so lucky. Most of them compete for the few available mule ducklings. This year, the epidemic having largely exceeded the only duck foie gras farms in the South West, it has reached Vendée and Pays de la Loire and affected hatcheries and breeder farms themselves.

The crisis has highlighted a fragility in the Périgord sector which usually supplies 3 million ducks per year: its dependence on external production, and the need to transfer animals between departments, which is always risky in the event of a pandemic. On April 14, announcing its plan to safeguard and relaunch the sector, the Department prioritized territorial autonomy in the production of goslings and ducklings and the creation of a slaughter and cutting workshop in Sarladais.

The main hatcheries in France have been decimated to 50 or 80%. A duck to lay, it takes 7 months, then it takes three and a half months to make a duck, I’ll let you do the math. It’s not a piece of scrap that we manufacture, it’s still living.

Éric Sourbé, breeder, vice-president Dordogne Chamber of Agriculture

On the side of the Chamber of Agriculture, Éric Sourbé Vice-President and himself a feeder and processor at Lardin-Saint-Lazare is in uncertainty. The prospects for a return to normal seem very remote. It takes 7 months to obtain a reproductive cane, three and a half months more for a duckling to be marketable, and another two weeks if you want to produce foie gras. A year at the very least.

As a result, even if we get ducklings, there won’t be any ducks for sale before the first half of 2023 at best, and more likely not before the second. At least for the producers who have held out so far. Because another problem arises, that of cash.

If government aid for the loss of activity has generally been quickly paid in compensation for the animals that had to be euthanized, the aid files intended to compensate for the loss of turnover are still slow in coming. During questions to the Government yesterday Tuesday, July 26, the Minister of Agriculture Marc Fesneau indicated that compensation of 459 million euros had already begun to be distributed and was in the process of being distributed for the poultry sector.

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