I REFER to Gavin McEwan’s article entitled Avara to make big change on Herefordshire’s chicken manure problem. There are no details in any of Avara’s statements to date by which we can judge how effective the changes will be.  

Avara states that its supply chain will no longer sell litter from poultry units to be used as fertiliser on fields within the river catchment, but it is difficult to understand how this will be monitored and controlled by their chosen third party, Gamber Poultry Litter. Is there even a viable market outside the Wye catchment for this volume of litter? Will farmers be compensated for any loss of income? Also, while Gamber may provide full traceability over the sale of the litter, how is the initial volume for supply to Gamber to be monitored and controlled? And will we, as the public, be told?

In addition, Avara will still allow litter to be used by some 25 to 30 farms against new assurance standards although, again, no details on monitoring  were mentioned and indeed it is stated that these standards are still in development. Will Avara be marking its own homework?

It is long overdue for Avara to admit to being part of the problem and it is good they have done so. However, their commitment to reduce this does not take into account the legacy phosphate already introduced by Avara. They have a deep responsibility to manage this out of the catchment.

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Finally, they state that the river will only return to health when everyone discharging phosphate changes the way they operate, and when the many other root causes are addressed. Although the many root causes are not specified, the most significant one would be legacy phosphate caused by Avara, after all, their suppliers’ chickens housed in IPU sheds represent around 16 million of the 24 million in the catchment. 

This announcement is accepted as being a short term sticking plaster while long term solutions come to fruition. These long term solutions haven’t been detailed, but must include destocking.

Ian Hague