Christmas worry for turkey farmers

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for turkey farmer Paul Potts as about half his annual turnover comes from sales of fattened birds for dinner tables across the region.

Christmas is the busiest time of the year for turkey farmer Paul Potts as about half his annual turnover comes from sales of fattened birds for dinner tables across the region.

But this year, for Mr Potts and other turkey producers in East Anglia, the usual seasonal cheer has been replaced by a dark cloud as officials battle to contain an outbreak of deadly H5N1 avian flu at a Suffolk farm.

Park Farm, Redgrave, near Diss, where the outbreak has been confirmed in a flock of free-range turkeys, is about 25 miles away from Ibstock Farm at Bramfield, near Halesworth, where Mr Potts rears turkeys and chickens.

Mr Potts' farm lies within the surveillance zone set up to try to prevent the disease from spreading, and yesterday he spoke of his fears that if avian flu were to spread it could spell disaster for turkey farmers this Christmas.

"At the moment I am just keeping my fingers crossed that they have managed to contain it," he said. "It is potentially disastrous. Christmas is a very important time of year for us. It generates about half our turnover. It would be heartbreaking."

"It has come at a very bad time, and is very bad news in that respect.

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"If the disease were to get out it could have a terrible effect on local turkey producers."

Mr Potts, 55, rears about 700 turkeys and 250 chickens on his 50-acre smallholding.

He said that he took his birds under cover on Monday and is using extra disinfectant as a precaution.

He added: "It is just business as usual for us at the moment. We are very busy looking after the birds and it is only three weeks before we start to slaughter them.

"I don't think many people will be put off by this. Our orders are normal for this time year, we have turkeys available, and we have even had one or two people who have been reminded to order their turkeys because of what they have seen on the news."

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