A derogation that allows poultry to be housed for up to 16 weeks, but still be marketed as free range, runs out on Sunday 20 March 2022, DAERA veterinary officials confirmed during a briefing session with the Stormont Agriculture committee last Thursday.

An Avian Influenza (AI) housing order of poultry flocks was introduced on 29 November 2021, and with DAERA vets assessing the current risk of disease getting into commercial flocks as “moderate”, there are no plans to lift the order just yet. “From this point on [20 March], eggs produced from free-range flocks must be marketed as barn eggs,” Jim Blee from DAERA told MLAs.

However, it is hoped that it will be a short-lived arrangement, with the risk of bird flu likely to decrease as migratory birds return to summer breeding grounds.

Officials also confirmed that all 3km and 10km disease control zones around infected sites have now been lifted across Ireland. In NI, there were six outbreaks, with compensation for culled flocks coming to around £790,000.

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