South Africa announces second bird flu outbreak as neighboring countries ease poultry import restrictions

SOUTH AFRICA – The South African Poultry Association (Sapa) has announced a second outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), that has occurred on a broiler breeder farm on the East Rand of Johannesburg.

The association said the farm was under quarantine and the birds were being culled and disposed of under Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) supervision.

This comes weeks after the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development confirmed the first outbreak of the pathogenic disease that killed 300 birds at the commercial chicken-layer farm in Ekurhuleni.

In a bid to ease tension in the poultry industry, Sapa said the outbreak was in the same compartment as the first layer hen outbreak, and was not expected to materially affect the trade restrictions already in place from the neighbouring countries.

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“The effects on the ongoing supply of broiler meat are minimal, and consumers are assured that broiler meat and eggs remain safe to eat provided proper cooking protocols are observed, with temperatures exceeding 60ºC achieved,” it highlighted.

Sapa bases its argument on the fact that the recent strain of the avian flu in the country was identified as HPAI H5N1 and is not the same strain experienced in June 2017.

According to a report by the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP), the outbreak of HPAI in South Africa in 2017 had a notable effect on the poultry industry, which was one of South Africa’s largest agricultural sub sectors.

Total cull numbers from the reported avian outbreaks in the broiler and layer industries were estimated at around 5.4 million birds.

Direct costs associated with the outbreak was around R40.5 million (US$2.8m), which could be even larger given the poor response rate on issues related to direct costs associated with the outbreak.

In terms of income foregone, BFAP said the total value was estimated at just more than R1.5 billion (US$105m), which included income lost from egg sales, pullet sales, day-old chick sales and broiler meat sales.

“The effects on the ongoing supply of broiler meat are minimal, and consumers are assured that broiler meat and eggs remain safe to eat provided proper cooking protocols are observed, with temperatures exceeding 60ºC achieved.”

South African Poultry Association

Still being cautious, the recent HPAI outbreak is being treated as extremely serious and virulent, and the poultry industry has remained in a state of high alert.

Sapa has revealed that the trade restrictions imposed by South Africa’s neighbours following the announcement of the recent outbreak, have since been relaxed somewhat or remained the same, with Botswana reducing its national ban to the affected farms only, Namibia restricting imports from the one affected compartment on the East Rand and Lesotho restricting imports from Gauteng.

Swaziland has restricted the affected compartment, while Mozambique has no official restrictions in place.

According to the poultry industry body, the support of Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development and all veterinary staff involved have been invaluable.

Supplies of both poultry meat and eggs were said to remain fully stocked as merely less than 1 percent of the bird stocks producing poultry meat and eggs were affected by avian influenza to date.

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