The two largest suppliers of Gamebirds will not send any eggs or chicks to the UK until June at the earliest.

L’envol de Retz and Gibovendee have told customers to plan for the delay in response to the worsening bird flu situation in the Pays de la Loire region of France where they are based. The decision will cause huge disruption to the shooting season, effectively delaying its start for many shoots by up to two months and possibly forcing shoots to cancel completely. (Read our daily bird flu update here.)

A serious outbreak of the highly pathogenic form of the disease began in the Pays de la Loire region earlier this month. As it rapidly spread from premises to premises the French authorities introduced draconian measures including movement bans and mass culls. Shooting and gamekeeping organisations had hoped that an agreement could be reached between DEFRA and the French authorities to allow eggs and chicks to be shipped, however no scheme has yet been agreed.

Significant numbers

Meanwhile, hopes that the outbreak may begin to ease have also been frustrated. Significant numbers of new cases have been reported and the outbreak now appears to have grown to the extent that is overwhelming the French authorities. In a regular update on the 22nd of March, the French government confirmed there had been 975 cases of the disease; this is a rise of 160 cases in a single week. The UK has experienced just over 100 cases this winter, by far the highest number that DEFRA has ever recorded.

Dominic Boulton of the Game Farmers Association told Shooting Times: “Sadly, there is still no solution in sight to the problems that Avian Influenza (AI) in France is causing French game farms and the UK Shooting Sector. The French authorities are doing all they can to try to contain the situation. Meanwhile, talks and negotiations at the highest level continue to explore any options that may allow the export of their eggs to the UK to resume.”

Dominic went on to sound a note of caution for shoot operators. He said: “The window of opportunity to find even partial a resolution to these issues will not remain indefinitely and time will soon become the limiting factor to what can be salvaged, should any solutions present themselves. Communication with suppliers will be essential to keep up to date with the situation as it evolves, but some shoots and game farms may soon need to re-evaluate their expectations for the coming season.”