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FARMING

Catalonia to cull 17,000 ducks as virulent bird flu hits

More than 17,000 ducks will be culled in Spain after a highly contagious bird flu strain that has affected poultry throughout Europe was detected at a farm, authorities said on Thursday.

Catalonia to cull 17,000 ducks as virulent bird flu hits
Photo: AFP

The virus found in Catalonia is H5N8, said Meritxell Serret, in charge of agriculture in the northeastern region – the same one that has seen hundreds of thousands of ducks and geese slaughtered in France's southwest.

Up until now, the virus had only been detected in Spain in three wild animals.

The H5N8 strain can spread quickly in affected farms, often leading to the culling of thousands of birds. 

Joan Guix, in charge of public health in Catalonia, sought to ease fears, saying it was a virus “that does not spread to humans.”

Health authorities in Catalonia are now inspecting farms within a three-kilometre (1.9-mile) radius of the affected location to see if the virus had spread.

According to the World Organisation for Animal Health, 24 countries in Europe have detected the H5N8 virus this year, as have China, Egypt, Cameroon and India.

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FARMING

WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules

A US decision to slap steep import duties on Spanish olives over claims they benefited from subsidies constituted a violation of international trade rules, the World Trade Organisation ruled Friday.

WTO rules US tariffs on Spanish olives breach rules
Farmers had just begun harvesting olives in southern Spain when former US President Donald Trump soured the mood with the tariffs' announcement. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

Former US president Donald Trump’s administration slapped extra tariffs on Spain’s iconic agricultural export in 2018, considering their olives were subsidised and being dumped on the US market at prices below their real value.

The combined rates of the anti-subsidy and anti-dumping duties go as high as 44 percent.

The European Commission, which handles trade policy for the 27 EU states, said the move was unacceptable and turned to the WTO, where a panel of experts was appointed to examine the case.

In Friday’s ruling, the WTO panel agreed with the EU’s argument that the anti-subsidy duties were illegal.

But it did not support its stance that the US anti-dumping duties violated international trade rules.

The panel said it “recommended that the United States bring its measures into conformity with its obligations”.

EU trade commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis hailed the ruling, pointing out that the US duties “severely hit Spanish olive producers.”

Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid, called by the olive sector
Demonstrators take part in a 2019 protest in Madrid called by the olive sector to denounce low prices of olive oil and the 25 percent tariff that Spanish olives and olive oil faced in the United States. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP)
 

“We now expect the US to take the appropriate steps to implement the WTO ruling, so that exports of ripe olives from Spain to the US can resume under normal conditions,” he said.

The European Commission charges that Spain’s exports of ripe olives to the United States, which previously raked in €67 million ($75.6 million) annually, have shrunk by nearly 60 percent since the duties were imposed.

The office of the US Trade Representative in Washington did not immediately comment on the ruling.

According to WTO rules, the parties have 60 days to file for an appeal.

If the United States does file an appeal though, it would basically amount to a veto of the ruling.

That is because the WTO Appellate Body — also known as the supreme court of world trade — stopped functioning in late 2019 after Washington blocked the appointment of new judges.

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