Sylvie Colas, of the Confédération paysanne: “We have never had flu in May in the Gers. This is the model we must follow”

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The new episode of avian influenza currently affecting the Gers department calls for strong measures, sometimes at the expense of farmers. To avoid these situations, some solutions could change the situation according to the unions. Interview with Sylvie Colas, of the Confédération paysanne.

17 affected outbreaks, several suspects under investigation and a crisis unit in progress: bird flu has not spared any farm in the west of the department. For 15 days, the Gers and other departments have been dealing with a serious health crisis within the poultry industry: the return of bird flu.

More virulent, more unpredictable but above all shocking for farmers, hit hard in a crucial period for breeding. For the spokesperson of the Confédération paysanne du Gers, Sylvie Colas, it would be necessary to “rethink the model”.

What is the situation on farms in the Gers?

We are shocked. Last Friday, we had a crisis meeting with national officials and the Directorate-General for Food. Apart from the depopulation measures and the eternal measures to prevent the circulation of the virus, we have no other restriction openings and this is the concern.

For us there are fewer and fewer farmers but when there is breeding it is very important. Biosecurity measures are more complicated to implement here. There are many streams, animals that come from afar. We have never had bird flu in May in the Gers. This is the model that needs to be revived.

Sylvie Colas was able to discuss with Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau when he came to Barcelonne-du-Gers on 10 February.

What do you think should be changed to avoid facilitating transmission?

The birth didn’t work out, the breeders invested a lot, in vain. It’s easy to blame wildlife or farms, whatever they are (small, medium or large). There is a global problem. We have to ask ourselves the question: “Which farm do we want for tomorrow, for which feed, under which production conditions?”

Whenever a decision is made, it is economic before health. We defend self-sufficient free range farming. Poultry could be contaminated by wildlife, yes. But there would be no broadcasts. Today the model is very segmented, so why are farms interested? We do not question biosecurity but the virus enters. We need to get everything back on track, stop building, make sure densities are lower, and think about all of that.

And the farmers in all this?

Everyone is overwhelmed and no one knows what to say. To correspond to the economic model, it was necessary to go down the range in the Gers, then build buildings, more industrial things. Those who have done this are out of the area, are no longer able to produce and find themselves in catastrophic economic situations, with very large loans. We are told the market is low-end, but the Gers is not made for the low-end.

We must learn from our free range elders. We produced less in volume but made more margin. The farmers were happy with it. Today nobody is. How do you depreciate a building in 15 years when you’ve been dealing with bird flu for more than 3 years in a row. The farmers will leave their feathers there.

What should we expect for the coming months?

We will come to a crucial period where we have to update stocks, take orders, etc. There, there will be no more production for the next few months. As far as festive poultry is concerned, this poses a great difficulty and we are in total uncertainty for the end of year celebrations.

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