September 21, 2023
Nearly 3.8 million birds in South Africa dead due to new HPAI strain
South Africa's chicken industry has lost over 3,787,000 birds since the start of June due to a new, deadly strain of highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), according to a poultry industry official quoted in a South African agriculture publication.
According to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH), the first outbreak in the country began in May in the Mpumalanga province. It has since spread to different provinces, including KwaZulu-Natal.
The KZN Department of Agriculture said that HPAI is a controlled disease in South Africa, so if it is detected on a farm, the affected farm will be placed under quarantine by the state in accordance with the Animal Diseases Act.
"Farms producing chicken meat and eggs will be placed under quarantine, they won't be able to supply the market," said Themba Sikhakhane, chief director of the Veterinary Services.
South African Poultry Association (SAPA) general manager Abongile Balarane told The Citizen that the number of layer chickens lost to the flu would lead to a tight supply of eggs.
"We have now lost more than 25% of the national production size this week alone," said Balarane.
According to the latest monthly household affordability index compiled by the Pietermaritzburg Economic Justice and Dignity Group, the price of frozen chicken portions in August went up by 3%.
The outbreak has led to a shortage of eggs, with several retailers alerting customers that shelves could be empty soon.
Balarane said SAPA and industry leaders have started discussions with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural development to explore the possibility of procuring emergency vaccines to assist the industry.
"It will take us some time to restock the affected farms," Balarane said. "In the short term, there will be tight supplies of eggs. We expect the normal supply and demand forces will drive up the price of eggs."
- The Witness