SOUTH AFRICA – Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana said state veterinarians were still assessing whether South Africa’s chickens should be vaccinated amid the country’s worst ever bird flu outbreak.
Zokwana was answering questions in the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday.
Over four million chickens have been culled this year following an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.
This is the first time that a highly pathogenic strain of bird flu has been detected in poultry in South Africa.
Zokwana also said that a formula for compensation for affected farmers had “recently” been created in consultation with National Treasury.
“I agree with you that farmers who have lost out have to get some compensation,” he said, but added he could not say what amount or level of compensation farmers would receive.
Wessel Lemmer, senior agricultural economist at ABSA, previously told Fin24 that a lack of compensation for farmers who have had to cull their poultry flocks was hurting the SA poultry industry.
Zokwana said one poultry company, which he did not name, had asked the department for permission to vaccinate its chicks against the virus.
“But we are worried because our markets may not be keen to buy from us,” said Zokwana. “But I have not said out of hand we cannot do that.”
Zokwana said that experts were assessing the matter. “We have left that to those who are trained like our veterinarians, who are dealing with it.” He did not say when a final decision would be made.
The minister also said the department would allow the importation of fertilised eggs from countries not affected by the virus to help out the SA sector. “Everything is being done by the department to ensure that our poultry sector remains viable.”
Zokwana said a total of 79 cases of bird flu had been detected countrywide, including 25 at commercial farms.
Asked about the impact of the virus on jobs, Zokwana said he didn’t have the figures on hand. But he said that jobs had definitely been lost.
“If it is an egg production facility and you have to destroy the eggs, obviously there will be no income by the time that process has happened.
“It is something we still have to verify.”
Asked about reports that money the department distributed for drought relief had been stolen, Zokwana said he could not comment on the matter as an investigation was ongoing.
“The process is still ongoing to verify if money was misused, and if yes how much.”