The Department of Agriculture, forestry and fisheries (Daff) on Wednesday said that it had detected new cases of avian influenza (HPAI H5N8) virus in the country in two more farms in Gauteng and Mpumalanga. The department said that the new locations involved commercial layer chicken farms, bringing the total number of affected farms to four after the first two cases in Mpumalanga in June. The farms had been immediately placed under quarantine by state veterinarians.
“The quarantine includes, as a minimum, a prohibition of the movement of chickens and chicken products on to and off the farm,” the department said. “The necessary measures have been taken to contain and eliminate the disease as efficiently as possible on both farms.”
The industry yesterday called on the government to do more to curb the spread.
“If the outbreak continues to spread then South Africa can expect shortages of chicken as well as price increases that may be steep,” said Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of South Africa chief executive David Wolpert. ”The situation has been seriously affected by the constant efforts by government to curtail imports.”
The reported cases of avian influenza have led to a ban on the country’s exports, particularly by Zimbabwe.
Dawie Maree, head of information and marketing for agriculture at FNB Business, said the ban of South African chicken by neighbouring countries would have a negative impact as Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana accounted for a substantial number of broiler exports.
“The ban is a major blow to the local industry which has been grappling a downturn over the last two years. We can only hope that the current ban from neighbouring countries is temporary, because if it lasts longer than a few more months, the industry could find itself shedding a further estimated 2 500 jobs,” said Maree, adding that the country could see a dent of 0.13percent on output and gross value added.
“The grain industry would also most likely take a knock as they provide feed to the poultry industry.”
The department maintained that it was doing its best to limit the damage. “Forward tracing was done and cull chicken depots were identified, which had received live cull chickens from one of the affected farms in the last 21 days.
“The records of these cull depots are being followed up to trace as many of these chickens as possible. The new Poultry Disease management Agency system of registration of persons buying and selling live chickens made it possible to trace these culls,” the department said.