Egg scare costs Dutch poul­try farm­ers €33M

Business World - - AGRIBUSINESS -

EUROPE’s con­tam­i­nated egg scare has cost Dutch poul­try farm­ers at least €33 mil­lion ($39 mil­lion), ac­cord­ing to a pre­lim­i­nary es­ti­mate by the gov­ern­ment.

The scare, trig­gered by the pres­ence of the in­sec­ti­cide fipronil in eggs, has spread to 18 Euro­pean coun­tries and even reached as far away as Hong Kong.

“Di­rect costs to the ( Dutch) poul­try sec­tor where fipronil was used are es­ti­mated at € 33 mil­lion,” Health Min­is­ter Edith Schip­pers and deputy econ­omy min­is­ter Mar­tijn van Dam said in a let­ter to par­lia­ment.

“Of this, € 16 mil­lion is as a re­sult of the sub­se­quent ban while € 17 mil­lion de­rives from mea­sures to rid farms of fipronil con­tam­i­na­tion,” the min­is­ters said.

Poul­try farms on av­er­age suf­fered ini­tial dam­ages of be­tween €120,000 to €200,000, the min­is­ters said.

Their find­ings are based on an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Wa­genin­gen Univer­sity’s Eco­nomic Research Unit.

The es­ti­mate does not in­clude non­farm­ers in the poul­try sec­tor, nor does it take into ac­count fur­ther losses in pro­duc­tion by farms.

Wed­nes­day’s let­ter also said in­ves­ti­ga­tors from the Dutch Food and Goods watch­dog found that Chick­friend, the com­pany that al­legedly cleaned chicken pens with fipronil, used a sec­ond toxic sub­stance called ami­traz.

The in­sec­ti­cide, a mildly toxic chem­i­cal used to kill flies, was found to have been used on a sin­gle cat­tle farm that also held chick­ens, but was not found in the farm’s poul­try sec­tion, the let­ter stressed.

“The slaugh­ter of calves at the farm has been sus­pended un­til the out­come of the ami­traz in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” it added

Two own­ers of Chick­friend briefly ap­peared in court in con­nec­tion with the case last week and re­main in cus­tody.

Law­mak­ers are due to de­bate the fall- out from the cri­sis on Thurs­day.

Ear­lier this month, a Dutch farm­ing fed­er­a­tion es­ti­mated to­tal dam­ages to be at least €150 mil­lion.

The Dutch Farm­ers and Gar­dener’s Fed­er­a­tion on Wed­nes­day wrote a let­ter to Van Dam, say­ing farm­ers ur­gently needed as­sis­tance as they were fac­ing fi­nan­cial ruin.

“The con­se­quences for the af­fected busi­nesses are huge,” said Fed­er­a­tion Chair­man Eric Hu­bers in a let­ter which was sent to AFP.

The busi­nesses “are be­ing hit by high costs and face bank­ruptcy if they get no fi­nan­cial sup­port,” said Hu­bers, whose fed­er­a­tion rep­re­sents some 50,000 farm­ers across all sec­tors.

Mil­lions of eggs have been pulled from su­per­mar­ket shelves and de­stroyed across Europe and dozens of poul­try farms closed since the fipronil con­tam­i­na­tion was made pub­lic at the start of the month.

Com­monly used to get rid of fleas, lice and ticks from an­i­mals, fipronil is banned by the Euro­pean Union from use in the food in­dus­try.

The is­sue has sparked a row be­tween Bel­gium, the Nether­lands and Ger­many, the three coun­tries at the cen­tre of the cri­sis, about how long of­fi­cials knew about the prob­lem.

Bel­gium has ac­cused the Nether­lands of hav­ing de­tected con­tam­i­nated eggs as far back as Novem­ber but keep­ing it quiet. The Nether­lands has said it was tipped off about the use of fipronil in pens but did not know it was in eggs.

Bel­gium mean­while has ad­mit­ted it knew about fipronil in eggs in early June but kept it se­cret be­cause of a fraud in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Bel­gium be­came the first coun­try to of­fi­cially no­tify the EU’s food safety alert sys­tem on July 20, fol­lowed by the Nether­lands and Ger­many, but the news did not go pub­lic un­til Aug. 1. —

A MAN hold­ing an egg in Lille, north­ern France. The tainted-eggs scan­dal that swept Europe this month saw mil­lions of eggs de­stroyed and caused tens of mil­lions of euros in dam­age.

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