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No poults, chicks or eggs will come from France to the UK for this rearing season

Despite the reassurances of some French and British game farmers, a clarification of the law around importing birds, chicks and eggs from France has ended hopes of a supply arriving in time for birds to be ready for the coming shooting season.

Shooting Times understands that meetings between French and UK authorities, as well as representatives of the shooting and game farming industries, have been trying to find a way forward; however all proposed solutions have run into a brick wall in the form of EU and UK law. These laws prevent the import of poultry including chicks and eggs for 90 days after an outbreak has ended. A great deal of confusion has arisen due to changes in EU law which shortened the time period for which restrictions would apply.

However these changes were introduced after Brexit and therefore do not apply to the UK. A DEFRA representative told Shooting Times: “Affected regions in France are no longer authorised to export poultry and poultry products (including hatching eggs, game birds and day old chicks) into Great Britain. Restrictions are lifted and trade allowed 90 days after Great Britain has received the official effective cleaning and disinfection date.”

Shooting Times has vigorously pursued DEFRA for clarification on a number of highly technical points concerning when the 90 day countdown begins but, at the time of going to press, DEFRA had not provided this. However for a number of reasons any clarifications are likely to be moot anyway.

The latest figures from the French government show a slight resurgence in cases in Pays De la Loire where the majority of French game farms are located. For many, but probably not all premises in the region, this will reset the clock on any 90 day countdown, pushing the date back even further.

Even if, for some premises, the 90-day countdown has begun, the earliest date any birds, chicks or eggs could arrive would be well into August. This would mean there is no real prospect of birds being ready for release before October, at which point the weather will be extremely hostile for young birds, and there is every prospect that chicks and eggs will not be ready for export until much later in the year.

Industry insiders have told Shooting Times that shoots must now accept that they will not have birds sourced from France this year. There remains an outside possibility that France will not be able to end the 2021/22 restrictions before a fresh influx of migratory wildfowl trigger the 2022/23 outbreak.