SOUTH AFRICA –  A severe outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in South Africa has led to the culling of approximately 410,000 chickens by the country’s poultry producer, RCL Foods, raising concerns about potential shortages of chicken meat and eggs.

The rapid spread of the highly contagious bird flu has already impacted the supply of table eggs, and producers are warning of potential chicken meat shortages in the coming weeks.

RCL Foods, through its poultry unit Rainbow, is one of South Africa’s major chicken producers, supplying retailers and fast-food businesses. The bird flu outbreak has led to significant financial losses for the company, estimated at R115 million.

The avian flu outbreak continues to evolve, impacting both South Africa’s poultry industry and its neighbouring countries, with ongoing efforts to contain the disease and mitigate its economic repercussions.

South Africa’s avian flu outbreak has also had regional repercussions, as neighbouring Namibia suspended poultry imports from South Africa due to the bird flu outbreak.

Albertina Shilongo, Namibia’s chief veterinary officer, announced the suspension of the importation and in-transit movement of live poultry, fresh-frozen poultry meat, table eggs, day-old chicks, and hatching eggs from South Africa until further notice.

While South Africa exports only a small percentage of its poultry production, the ban further underscored the severity of the situation.

The Poultry Producers Association (PPA) of Namibia expressed relief over the import ban, citing the potential threat to local poultry operations posed by the disease outbreak in South Africa.

However, the PPA acknowledged that the ban may create challenges for small-scale producers that rely on South Africa for replenishing their stock.

While the import ban aims to protect local producers and prevent the disease’s spread, it may lead to poultry product shortages, driving up prices and inflation.

Windhoek agricultural economist, Mally Likukela noted that while shortages may result in higher prices, it presents an opportunity for local producers to develop the industry and reduce reliance on South African imports.

Additionally, Bertha Iiyambo, an economist at Namibia Agricultural Union, highlighted the protection the ban provides to producers, employees, and families, as an outbreak could lead to the culling of entire flocks and production disruption.

Erastus Kadhikwa, a commercial poultry producer, echoed Likukela viewing the ban as an opportunity for Namibian producers to strengthen their industry by producing parent stock or fertile eggs and setting up processing facilities.

While small producers may face immediate challenges, Kadhikwa assured that the situation could motivate local producers to become more self-reliant.

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