Relief after avian flu outbreak contained

The outbreak of the avian flu severely impacted the industry last year, resulting in the culling or death of over 100 000 chickens. Picture: Independent Newspapers Archive

The outbreak of the avian flu severely impacted the industry last year, resulting in the culling or death of over 100 000 chickens. Picture: Independent Newspapers Archive

Published Feb 14, 2024

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Farming associations have welcomed the announcement by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development that the avian flu outbreak has been contained.

This comes after the outbreak of the flu severely impacted the industry last year, resulting in the culling or death of over 100 000 chickens.

The department added that the avian flu vaccine had been registered but it would not be rolled out unless there was another outbreak.

South African Poultry Association CEO Izaak Breitenbach said the last cases occurred in November.

“This is certainly good news for farmers, but now we need to vaccinate our flocks to prevent a disaster like 2023 from happening again. Farmers need to apply to vaccinate and to qualify to vaccinate the farmers must adhere to a biosecurity protocol and do recommended monitoring of flocks.”

Breitenbach added that he had concerns about vaccination. “Because of the high level of biosecurity required to vaccinate and the high cost of monitoring we are concerned that a lot of farmers will not qualify to vaccinate.

“Although there is no shortage of poultry meat at present, it is beneficial long term for the consumer that we produce all chicken locally. We have always supplied cheap chicken to the consumers for many years and would like to continue to do so.”

Bennie van Zyl, TLU SA general manager, said farmers had suffered great losses as they had to cull several chickens to prevent the flu from spreading.

He added that there were also job losses.

“There has been a lot of damage that has been done to the farming sector due to the outbreak. The avian flu is very damaging and we are glad that it has been contained. It’s good news for the consumer as chicken is an important source of food. We are hopeful that there will be no more avian flu outbreaks.”

Van Zyl said that a stable environment would also allow for better prices for the consumer in the poultry industry.

“The best prices can be achieved by using market principles, the availability of what they produce such as eggs and broiler chicken, and the demand from the consumers.

“We should expect more demand from the consumer after the end of the outbreak and that will bring a balance to the price.”

Jaco Minnaar, the president of Agri SA, said that biosecurity was becoming a significant problem in South Africa.

“The impact of this is seen all over agricultural production like foot-and-mouth disease in meat products and wool, African swine fever in the pork industry, and then avian flu in poultry. Containment is always good for farmers, as this again opens up local production which creates jobs.”

Minaar added that it also opened up exports again.

“This is good for more expensive portions of the meat market, again creating financial influx into rural areas, additional production and safer and cheaper food for our country.

The more we can produce locally, the better for the economy as well as the consumer.”

Minaar said that we need to put in measures to ensure that avian flu remains contained or doesn’t reoccur.

“We need to address the more permanent solutions. Moreover, interim solutions like import relief on import levies needs to return to levels where we incentivise local production, local economies and lastly long-term relief for consumers.”

The Mercury

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