File Image: Nic Bothma/EPA
JOHANNESBURG - JSE-listed poultry producer RCL Foods yesterday became the latest victim of the avian influenza when it reported an outbreak in one of its 18 sheds in the Viva farm near Muldersdrift in Gauteng. 

RCL described the farm as a small breeder facility which was not used for meat production as most of the birds were at the end of their life cycle. 

“This outbreak occurred despite the obsessive and stringent biosecurity measures that we have in place to contain the spread of the virus,” RCL managing director for for consumer division Scott Pitman said. 

“We are working closely, and fully co-operating, with government and other authorities to gather industry research on how best to contain the virus. It should be noted that the virus is not known to affect humans.” 

The news came after Astral Foods also reported a similar outbreak at its Welbedacht farm near Standerton in Mpumalanga last week. Paul Makube, senior agricultural economist at FNB, said the latest outbreak was worrying for the poultry industry and attempts to contain it should be found soon. 

Makube said the situation could have far reaching implications for poultry exports. “We will lose market share and this will lead to more imports and definitely high prices for chicken,” he said, adding that it would also lead to a depopulation of flocks and a decline in local poultry volumes.