There are at least 61 poultry farms in the area directly affected by the flooding near Abbotsford, B.C., according to an update from the B.C. Chicken Growers’ Association.
At least 20 of these poultry farms in the flood zone raise broiler chickens (for meat), says B.C. Chicken, in a briefing shared with RealAgriculture on Thursday.
While some barns have flooded, information on how many birds have died, and how many are still at risk, is not known at this time. There are reports of helicopters bringing water, and possibly feed, to stranded barns. Late Thursday, the Abbotsford Police Department tweeted that the first two feed trucks had been allowed to enter the evacuation zone.
“The health and safety of birds, our farmers, and industry partners, continues to be a priority. While the priority within this crisis in BC is with keeping everyone safe, chicken farmers continue to work diligently to protect the birds in their care,” says B.C. Chicken.
B.C. Agriculture Minister Lana Popham, speaking to the media Thursday, said it’s a priority for the province to help farmers get back to their animals.
“This is a really painful moment for farmers,” said Popham. “Whether it’s to get them food or water, whether it’s to help them out of their misery, they need to get there, so we’re working as fast as we can to ensure those routes are there.”
Popham said efforts are also underway to find feed for animals, specifically mentioning a shipment at the Port of Vancouver that was destined for China that would likely get rerouted back to the Fraser Valley area.
Within the last hour with changing conditions, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Fisheries in conjunction with the Ministry of Transportation & City of Abbotsford has issued a permit to the first two feed trucks to enter the evacuation zone. #strengthincommunity pic.twitter.com/V6wo7KsGiK
— Abbotsford Police Department (@AbbyPoliceDept) November 19, 2021
The B.C. Poultry Association, the overarching group that represents farmers who raise chickens and turkeys for meat, eggs and broiler hatching eggs, is working with the Abbotsford Emergency Operations department and the provincial Emergency Operations Centre to help ensure families and as many birds as possible are safe, and “to help mitigate impacts to the poultry industry and allow us to get back to business quickly and safely,” says BC Chicken.
Many other poultry farms in southern B.C. are indirectly affected by disruptions to feed supply, water, electricity, processing, and transportation.
Maintaining the integrity of the food supply chain for British Columbians is also essential, says BC Chicken, in its update.
“The chicken sector’s decision-makers at both local and national levels are meeting regularly to discuss this situation and how we can maintain fluidity in this situation and taking the necessary steps to ensure, where possible, that the entire value chain operates effectively and keeps supply lines moving to consumers. The objective is to ensure that consumers will continue to be able to access the quality chicken they expect.”
The Fraser Valley is home to some of the most productive farmland in Canada, as well as a large number of dairy and poultry farms that produce the bulk of B.C.’s dairy, chicken and eggs. At least 59 dairy farms are also directly affected by the flooding, according to BC Dairy.
Making matters worse, the B.C. Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford, which provides veterinary lab services and milk testing, has also been flooded. Alberta and Manitoba have offered back-up veterinary lab services.