Senzeni Zokwana File picture: Siya Duda/GCIS

Johannesburg - Agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister, Senzeni Zokwana, on Tuesday agreed to set up a task team consisting of representatives from the poultry industry and government to work on scientifically-based considerations regarding vaccination of chickens. 

Zokwana revealed this in a statement following his meeting with chief executives and senior managers in the poultry industry in a closed meeting to find solutions and discuss mitigation strategies to the current avian influenza outbreak. 

The department of agriculture has instituted quarantine and disease control measures as the total number of outbreaks has climbed to 16 in South Africa. 

Seven bird flu outbreaks were in commercial chickens‚ three in wild birds‚ two in commercial ostrich‚ three in backyard poultry and one in birds that were kept as a hobby.

Zokwana, through the department, said the current bird flu outbreak was threatening the existence of the South African poultry industry, as well as jobs in the sector.
 
He said that the industry raised concerns on compensation and guidelines relating to the principles and guidelines of compensating affected farms, adding that the department was committed to providing guidelines on compensation.  

Zokwana said the industry also requested to be given permission to import fertile eggs to close the gap as a result of culled birds, also highlighting another area of concern which is vaccination of poultry against avian influenza. 
 
On the issue of vaccination, the meeting agreed that the decision should be based on scientific research for the long-term benefit of the sector and the country. 

The department further committed to consider the request of importing hatching eggs considering the necessary level of protection desired to protect the national population by end of the week.