Poultry auctions hit by ‘crippling’ double lockdown for coronavirus and bird flu

Poultry auctioneer Fabian Eagle, who runs the weekly poultry markets in Swaffham and Holywell Row. P

Poultry auctioneer Fabian Eagle, who runs the weekly poultry markets in Swaffham and Holywell Row. Picture: Matthew Usher - Credit: Matthew Usher

A poultry auctioneer believes his business could be the only one in Norfolk to be hit by two national lockdowns at the same time – having been forced to close under both coronavirus and bird flu restrictions.

Fabian Eagle runs the two weekly markets at Swaffham racetrack and at Eldon Farm in Holywell Row near Mildenhall, which are currently unable to operate due to the four-week Covid-19 lockdown.

But he fears he may be closed for even longer after this week’s declaration of an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) to prevent the spread of bird flu, which makes it a legal requirement for all bird keepers to follow strict biosecurity measures – and also bans “bird gatherings” such as poultry auction markets.

Mr Eagle, who is also a county councillor, said: “I probably have the only business in Norfolk which is subject to two national lockdowns simultaneously.

“It is so difficult. With regards to the Covid lockdown we are closed until December 2. Then after this week’s news of the bird flu lockdown, I would be very lucky if I will be doing a poultry auction before the end of February, or it could be extended right through to April. It is crippling.

“From the last week of March through to May there is an eight-week period which accounts for 40pc of our turnover.

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“I knew the business that I took into. You factor in bird flu incidents and you work on a five or six-year cycle and hope it maybe lasts for a month. But since 2001 this is my fifth national lockdown and I have been counted in five regional lockdowns (for bird flu, foot and mouth disease, and coronavirus)”.

The auctions, while previously running under social distancing rules, had been attended by around 60 people, with 600-700 birds per sale.

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Mr Eagle said the market still intends to run its popular Christmas poultry auctions, as the restrictions would not affect the sale of dead birds.

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