SOUTH AFRICA – The bird flu outbreak at operations of a Gauteng poultry producer has cost it R35m (US$2.6m), plus an additional R30m (US$2.2m) to restore operations.

Gauteng MEC of Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development Lebogang Maile visited a poultry farm in Gauteng, Rooikraal Arendnes, on Tuesday.

Producers of Eggbert Eggs – part of the Kuipers Group – unpacked the impact of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N8) on its operations to the MEC and journalists.

Maile visited the farm and met with management to get a better understanding of the damaging impact of the outbreak.

Gawie Rossouw, general manager at Eggbert Eggs, explained that over 525 000 birds were culled at its operations at Rooikraal farm, Rooines, Maya Serobe, Rebafenyi and free range farm Arendsnes.

The value of this amounts to R27.5m, based on a valuation schedule by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF). This amount could be much higher, Rossouw said.

The total loss to Eggbert was R34.5m, and about R31.8m is needed to restore operations.

This is essentially R65m to cover the losses and the cost needed to get the business going again, said Rossouw.

More than 470 000 dozen eggs were dumped, at R12 per dozen; this amounts to  R5.6m.

Rossouw said that each dozen could have fetched R15 at the market.

He also clarified that none of these losses was covered by insurance.

However, the producer had filed an application to DAFF for compensation in July after the first outbreak was reported that month. “Nothing has transpired since then,” he said.

Of the 70 staff, 50 were retrenched. As birds are placed back at the houses, staff will be brought back, assured Rossouw.

He said those that were let go will have the first right to take up positions within a six-month period.

The cost of retrenchment amounted to more than R830 000.

However, the producer has resolved not to place birds at the free range site, Arendsnes, as the risk of outbreak is much higher there, especially as the birds are close to packing facilities. “We learnt the hard way,” he said.

“When the disease breaks out, it’s (the) worst nightmare because one operation affects the other,” said Dr Dietena Nemudzivhadi, acting chief director veterinary service, Gauteng Province.