No compensation yet as producers suffer huge poultry culling losses

Johannesburg – The damaging effect of the bird flu outbreak is exacerbated by the delay in compensation by government, according to an analyst.

Wessel Lemmer, senior agricultural economist at ABSA, spoke to Fin24 about the negative impact the outbreak has had on the finances of poultry producers. Since the outbreak was reported in July, no compensation has been provided to affected producers, which is impacting their income streams, he said.

Charles Le Maitre, CEO of Kuipers Group, told journalists at a site visit to an infected farm, Rooikraal Arendnes, that the group applied to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) for compensation in September.

“DAFF has not come forward with any compensation. We are waiting to see if there will be any compensation and what amounts they will be able to pay out.” The culling on the farm has led to a loss of R35m. A further R30m is needed to restore operations, bringing the total amount needed to R65m.

WATCH: Culling birds has cost a farm R35m

Lemmer is doubtful that National Treasury has the capacity to provide compensation to these producers. Without compensation, some producers may “hide” the fact that they have not culled birds which will prolong the outbreak, he explained.

Greg Celliers, veterinarian for the commercial egg divisions of Kuipers Group, also explained the importance for government to compensate farmers for the losses that come with culling birds and dumping eggs.

“At this point, if you have an outbreak and do everything by the book, it actually costs you more,” said Celliers. But if producers remain quiet about the outbreak and try and deplete the birds by their own means, this would pose a bigger risk to the industry.

Celliers said that if government makes the call to provide compensation for producers who have handled the outbreaks by the book, it would help stop the spread. “If people can see that they will not be in a worse off financial position by declaring this a challenge and then culling the birds, we will be dealing with this a lot quicker.”

Celliers is also sceptical about the reporting of outbreaks. So far all farms which have reported outbreaks have been large-scale, respectable commercial operations, he said. “You cannot tell me these are the only guys that have broken. There must be others.”

Gauteng MEC of Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development Lebogang Maile, who visited Rooikraal Arendnes to gain a better understanding of the outbreak, said the situation is devastating.

Maile said that he would be writing to Minister Senzeni Zokwana to fast track the process of providing compensation. “It is not helping to take longer. It can’t be right and accepted that government should take time on anything. Our turnaround time must be quicker.

“Government can’t fold arms and be helpless. Despite limited resources we must consider how to optimally invest our resources in a prudent and accountable manner,” he said.

There are currently 13 confirmed cases of bird flu in Gauteng. Affected areas include Benoni, Vanderbijlpark, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.

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