The Czech Republic is invoking emergency clauses in its accession agreement with the European Union (EU) to block poultry imports from other member states which have been hit by bird flu.

Speaking on Radio Prague, agriculture minister Jan Mladek said his government had requested the necessary approval from the European Commission for waiving standard intra-EU free trade guarantees.

The aim was not blocking potentially contaminated poultry imports, he said, but stopping poultry meat from member states where demand has fallen, such as Italy. This has not happened in the Czech Republic, where poultry producers face booming cheap poultry meat imports – up 16% in January