THE DUTCH ministry for agriculture has extended the housing order for free-range poultry once again, saying the risk of avian influenza incursion remains high.

There hasn’t been a case on a commercial poultry farm in the Netherlands since 20 February.

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But in a letter to the country’s parliament, farming minister Carola Schouten said about 10% of wild birds submitted for testing were still positive for highly pathogenic AI.

That compares with 15%-18% in January and February.

The species testing positive are more often birds of prey such as buzzards and peregrine falcons and other scavengers like gulls, where previously it was waterfowl.

Neighbouring countries

There also continue to be new outbreaks in neighbouring countries, with a large cluster of cases in France.

Based on these factors, experts recommended that the housing order remains in place.

Ms Schouten agreed with this evaluation and the situation will be reassessed at the end of April.

The Netherlands passed the 16-week housing derogation for free-range birds on 11 February, meaning that most poultrymeat and eggs have been downgraded to barn since then.

However, several retailers have maintained the premium paid to farmers for free-range eggs.

In the past two weeks, there have been 83 cases of avian influenza in Germany and 84 in Poland.