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B.C. poultry industry to party leaders: Help us survive the avian flu crisis PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Sunday, 27 June 2004 05:10
VANCOUVER (CP) -- B.C. poultry industry leaders want promises of $340 million in aid from federal party leaders to help them weather the avian flu crisis that has brought the billion-dollar industry to its knees. B.C. poultry industry to party leaders: Help us survive the avian flu crisis

Hayley Mick
Canadian Press

June 16, 2004

VANCOUVER (CP) -- B.C. poultry industry leaders want promises of $340
million in aid from federal party leaders to help them weather the avian flu
crisis that has brought the billion-dollar industry to its knees.

"They've said that B.C. is important to them," said Ray Nickel, president of
the B.C. Poultry Committee at a rally in Abbotsford o­n Wednesday.

"We are asking to them to back up those words with promises and action."

A seven-page open letter to Conservative leader Stephen Harper, Liberal
leader Paul Martin and the NDP's Jack Layton was read over rally
loudspeakers. It had been signed by a long list of poultry industry leaders
and local politicians.

The $340 million in federal support is needed for recovery efforts and
production losses suffered by the province's poultry industry, which has
been reeling since avian influenza was discovered o­n a B.C. farm in
February.

That prompted the slaughter of about 17 million birds -- almost the entire
population in the Fraser Valley -- to halt the spread of the virus.

The poultry farmers want the federal leaders to respond to their requests
before voters head to the polls o­n June 28.

Harper was not available to comment, but said he would respond in "due time"
before the election, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Liberal spokesmen said they hadn't seen the letter and couldn't comment
immediately. NDP officials did not return phone calls.

Last week, Ottawa promised $60 million in compensation for farmers whose
birds were killed, but didn't receive normal market prices or couldn't be
sold.

But industry people say the damage goes far beyond those birds. Processors,
feed mills, hatcheries and trucking companies have also suffered layoffs and
production losses.

Although the Canadian Food Inspection Agency gave some farmers the green
light to begin re-stocking their barns late last week, many are still out of
commission.

About 1,700 people have lost their jobs since February and the provincial
poultry industry is losing $8 million per week, Nickel said.

"The crisis continues, and for many people the crisis may just be
beginning."

Randy White, Abbotsford Conservative party candidate, said the Liberals had
plenty of advance warning in the early stages of the avian flu outbreak and
could have minimized its impact if they had taken lessons from the mad cow
crisis that devastated the country's beef industry last year.

"There's no plan to help these people," he said Wednesday. "A government's
responsibility is to be proactive not reactive, and this government let this
slide deliberately."

The letter implored the federal party leaders to use B.C.'s experience to
introduce a national emergency response system and other protocols to
prevent a similar crisis in the future.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency gave some farmers notice they could
begin re-stocking their barns late last week.

But those that are within a zone labelled high risk continue to undergo a
cleaning and disinfection process and still aren't able to rebuild their
flocks.

One of three farms owned by Fraser Valley goose and duck farmer Ken Falk is
outside that high risk zone.

But it remains empty because he still has to raise a new flock of breeders
from the egg stage after his approximately 140,000 birds were eliminated
during the outbreak.

The first ducklings won't be ready until January 2005, he said, and it will
be two and a half years before his breeding program is back to full
capacity.

"What can I say, it's devastating." Falk said, estimating the total damage
will be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"This is a huge, huge, loss."

Last Updated on Sunday, 27 June 2004 05:10
 

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