With in particular, at the end of March, a telephone call from their exclusive supplier of ducks who explained to them on the telephone that he no longer had the slightest waterfowl to sell them. “Their” breeder, Chez Morille, based in Augé in the Deux-Sèvres and “with whom the house has been working for more than thirty years”, wishes to specify the young woman, found himself within the perimeter of a surveillance zone . “He explained to us that he could only supply us until the end of May”. After that, the supply of ducks would be completely stopped.
Indeed, before being in sharp decline in recent weeks, the epizootic raged in the form of a strong push in the Great West from March to May. The Charente was relatively spared by this episode with only two proven cases in the south of the department.
“We reacted very quickly and made decisions in stride”, continues the 30-year-old with clear eyes, who was an engineer in public works before taking over the business two years ago, with her family. Maud and Jean then choose to increase, as much as possible, their volume of purchased ducks. “From 200 per week, we went to 300 in April”. Objective: to increase the rate of 30% on the production of jars to be able to “spend the summer”. “The idea being of course to be able to offer our customers, and in particular tourists, duck products during July/August. “. Second flagship period after Christmas for the Maison de Charente.
As for fresh duck, which lovers of duck breasts, aiguillettes and other thighs love, “we haven’t had any since the end of May”, assures Maud Charbonnier. So rather than offering defrosted products, “which is not at all the mindset of the house”, the two young associates bet on a form of diversification by offering pieces of pork. “We were already sourcing in very small quantities for the need of some of our preparations, we simply increased the volumes”. Merguez, sausages, ventrèches and grilled meats have therefore taken up residence in the store in front of “rather understanding” customers, believes Maud Charbonnier. The two partners have also increased their coverage of catering products, in order to keep turnover afloat. “And then”, illustrates the craftsman again, “we stopped supplying our restaurants and producer stores to refocus on direct sales and the markets of Ruffec and Ruelle”.
Uncertainty around Christmas
A few dozen kilometers away, in Angoulême, in the back of her butcher’s shop, Geneviève Brangé also notes “a real shortage of duck breasts for two weeks”. The one who is also president of the Chamber of Trades dreams of better days: “It’s a shame not to be able to offer these products, which are very popular with customers. But I prefer to wait for the crisis to fade rather than supplying myself at exorbitant prices. “storms the professional. Or even worse: getting supplies from abroad. “It’s an unthinkable scenario for me”, insists the one who campaigns for “the local”. And then, comments Mrs. Brangé again, “if it’s sad for the customers, it’s even more so for the breeders”. The evocation of a form of wave to the soul even of bitterness shared by Frédéric Parthenay. The Charente farmer from Puyréaux, initially a grain producer, launched a poultry activity in 2000 with a production of roasting birds throughout the year as well as fattened ducks over the period from November to February. Except that the latter simply made the decision to hang up, motivated by the aftershocks of the avian flu epidemic. The one who “had reached the point of raising some 5,000 roast poultry and around 600 ducks each year” during the last years, will therefore now devote himself solely to his crops. “In 2021 already, we had to take confinement measures for poultry, and then this year, we have to face the total absence of supply of ducks but also of chickens. Today, I can no longer afford to have expenses and salaries to pay without any production, ”he says bluntly.
Faced with this air pocket in the activity of the sector, Maud Charbonnier is also reviewing her plans on the employment side: finally, the employee who retires on July 1 “will not be replaced immediately” and the company has been in partial activity since Monday, June 5th.
In the east of the department, the difficulties mentioned are the same at the Ferme de l’Arbre, in Rouzède. Farmers Florence Brand and Vincent Bresson also have to deal with a shortage of ducklings. Their supplier, located in Vendée, a department severely affected by the epizootic, was forced to slaughter all the ducks on his farm. Depriving the two Charentais of some 500 animals which were to constitute the stock of fattened ducks for the holidays. To deal with the shortfall, Florence and Vincent announce “to refocus on chicken” by bringing in 800 chicks in particular.
I can no longer afford to have expenses and salaries to pay without any production.
As for the Christmas period, which is the peak of activity for players in the sector, “we still have no visibility”, analyzes Maud Charbonnier. “In the absence of foie gras, we will eat goose rillettes”, tries to philosophize Geneviève Brangé.
The sector in figures
The poultry sector has 155 farms in the department, led by broiler chickens (76), ahead of ducks (30), guinea fowl (26), game birds (20), laying hens (14) and geese (14) in particular. “It should be noted”, specifies Yohann Guedon, in charge of the sector at the Chamber of Agriculture, “that among these figures, the same farm can group together several farms”. Among these 155 units, 15% are structured in “producer organizations” against 85% in direct sales.
This is the number of farms affected by avian flu, in the department, in 2022.
Lowering the risk to “negligible”
Due to the health situation deemed satisfactory, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Sovereignty decided to lower the level of risk to “negligible”, throughout the national territory, since Wednesday. However, certain regions of the territory are still regulated (protection zones and surveillance zones) and therefore subject to various control measures. The reduction or even the disappearance of active migratory corridors as well as a rise in outside temperatures reducing the survival of the virus in the environment have contributed to this adjustment.
The Charente prefecture clarified for its part, in a press release, that “the measures put in place in the protection zone have been lifted.” The new restricted area is expected to be fully lifted from June 18.