Government of Canada invests in capacity for responding to avian influenza outbreaks in British Columbia

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Avian influenza continues to be a significant threat to poultry production in Canada. The Government of Canada is committed to reinforcing the sector’s capacity to respond to disease outbreaks in the future.

Today, the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, announced an investment of $1.81 million over three years to support the British Columbia (BC) Poultry Association’s preparation for direct participation in responses to future outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in the province.

The BC Poultry Association represents the supply-managed regulated poultry sectors – chicken, turkey, table egg, and hatching eggs – on common issues to support the commercial poultry sector.

HPAI is a significant risk for the poultry industry across Canada. The most recent outbreak of HPAI was unprecedented in terms size, geographical distribution and duration. Within British Columbia there is a highly concentrated production zone in the Fraser Valley which is also located in the Pacific flyway for migratory birds and home to a significant number of wild birds year-round. These unique factors require strong farm biosecurity at all times and an effective, timely disease response when there is an outbreak of HPAI.

This investment will support the BC Poultry Association:

  • Creating and implementing standard operating procedures (SOPs) for comprehensive training, personal protection equipment (PPE) inventories and rotation, secondary destruction methods and hiring contractors;
  • Creating and tendering a contract for a primary supplier for destruction, biocontainment and training as well as secondary destruction capacity to assist if there is a surge in infected premises;
  • Developing a partnership with BC AgSafe to assist with worker safety during training and annual fit tests for workers requiring PPE; and
  • Developing and building strategic partnerships with BC Ministry of Agriculture and Food, processors and allied trades for an effective HPAI response.

This investment will enable industry-led destruction and biocontainment activities that will be completed with oversight from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) so that overall response capacity is expanded without increased risk for animal welfare or disease spread.

Quotes

“By working together, we can prepare for future avian influenza outbreaks. The poultry industry in British Columbia already provides valuable assistance with coordinating movement controls and permits during disease outbreaks and this agreement allows industry to play a critical role in the health of the sector, in partnership with the CFIA.”

– The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

“The BC Poultry Association would like to recognize the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s funding to increase industry’s response ability during an outbreak of avian influenza. Upon completion of this three-year project, we will have improved capacity to respond to future detections, with at least two companies with multiple teams that are fully trained in worker safety, humane destruction, and biocontainment. Partnering with the CFIA on building capacity for HPAI response will benefit all poultry producers, poultry processors, feed companies, and hatcheries in BC. A rapid response to HPAI will benefit all British Columbians through reduced disease spread and increased food security.”

Steve Heppell, chair, BC Poultry Association

Quick facts

  • Funding for this project comes from the Federal Assistance Program (FAP) which is the CFIA’s contribution program. The FAP allows the agency to broaden its reach by supporting projects and initiatives that advance the CFIA’s core responsibility for safe food and healthy plants and animals.
  • From April 2022 to April 2023, there were 104 commercial and non-commercial HPAI infected premises in BC which resulted in the death of 3.677 million birds. In the national outbreak which began in December 2021, BC producers dealt with 32% of the infected premises and 48% of the impacted birds.
  • The Lower Mainland (primarily in the Fraser Valley) is home to most of the poultry production in the province:
    • 79% of the commercial chicken farms
    • 70% of the commercial turkey farms
    • 80% of the commercial egg farms
    • 100% of the commercial hatching egg production