Avian flu hitting consumers’ pockets as they dig deeper to purchase eggs

Published Oct 3, 2023


Consumers around South Africa are scrambling to the shops to purchase eggs and chicken as the country battles with an avian flu outbreak.

Millions of chickens have been culled as parts of efforts to contain the outbreak.

The current outbreak of avian flu has been described as the worst since 2017.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza said her department is focusing on measures to improve egg availability across South Africa as retailers battle with stock shortages due to the avian flu outbreak.

She said they are assessing ways to improve the supply of chicken meat.

Didiza with her Trade & Industry counterpart Ebrahim Patel and retailers met yesterday to discuss challenges the country is facing due to the avian flu. This followed another meeting held last Friday where they discussed assessing the problems.

“One of the things that has come up here is that the challenge is not so much on the products, which means the availability of poultry meats on our shops. However, where we may have a challenge is actually on the eggs and the reason being that the breeding stock of chicken layers is what has been mostly affected, which has really created a challenge in the volumes of eggs that can be produced,” said Didiza.

She said South Africa has been importing meat from Brazil, the US and even Europe.

Didiza said the only issue that the Trade & Industry minister has to deal with is dumping into the local market, which is why he had put in place that same mechanism to address the issue.

“But with the eggs, we will be looking at importing in the southern region, but also in Brazil and the US and in terms of that import, it will address the issue of table eggs, but also fertilised eggs so that we can quickly come back on stream in terms of our layer chicks that we need,” Didiza said.

When it comes to vaccination, Didiza said they are looking at vaccination “as we speak”.

“There are already two international companies that have made an application for registering vaccines that addresses the two strains that we are having, one being the H7 and one being the H5. And we are, through our scientists together with the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), actually evaluating those samples that we have received in terms of the efficacy as well as the quality and safety,” she said.

Didiza said South Africa had never vaccinated before in terms of avian flu. They had always used containment measures, where they quarantine and dispose of some of those chickens that are affected.

“So what we’ve been discussing with the industry is in the assessment of the existing vaccines, we will look at the efficacy in terms of the strain that we are having in South Africa. Look at its quality and safety to both those who are handling the birds as well as the consumers.

“And we will also look at what are the likely impacts in terms of trade. France is having a situation where other jurisdictions are saying no to vaccinated chickens from your side. And those are the issues that we will have to strongly consider as South African government and industry working together in this regard.”

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south africabird flu