Avian flu leads to industry losses of R954m - report


Cape Town - The highly pathogenic avian influenza (H5N8) or avian flu resulted in losses of R954m for the poultry industry, a report by the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) has revealed.

SAPA’s acting CEO, Dr Charlotte Nkuna, made presentations to Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries on Tuesday.

The total value of the industry is R46bn, but the losses have amounted to R954m.

The report showed that a total of 1 996 815 birds were killed. The loss attributed to the culling of birds was R307.15m, according to the report.

The Western Cape was most affected by the outbreak, as the largest number of outbreaks and commercial farms and the highest number of wild bird outbreaks were reported. A total of 3.3 million or 70.95% of the bird population was culled or recorded as dead.

In Mpumalanga it was 394 435 birds or 34.75% of the population, followed by Free State with 360 000 birds or 10.09% of the population. In Gauteng more than 415 00 birds or 7.26% of the population was culled or  recorded as dead, and in KwaZulu-Natal the figure was 111 945 birds or 3.61% of the population.

SAPA indicated that although there have been no new outbreaks on commercial farms since its last report on January 9, there have been some re-occurences in ostriches. Since June 2017, the supply of eggs and chickens has declined and the country has had to rely on imports, the committee heard.

Currently preparations are underway for the 2018 winter season. Previously News24 reported that there is a risk of resurgence of the outbreak in winter.

Committee chair Rosina Semenya raised concerns over the 1 300 people who lost their jobs over the outbreak, and if steps were being taken to avoid losses. Semenya also wanted to know if farmers and traders were compensated for losses.

Nkuna highlighted some of the challenges in the industry which included the lack of a favourable compensation policy. Other challenges are slow emergency disease response, limited capacity for disease monitoring and detection and the lack of proper risk assessment capability.

SAPA recommended that compensation guidelines be reviewed, a comprehensive disease control programme developed and emergency response improved.

Semenya said the committee was awaiting reports from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) and from the Food and Allied Workers Union.

“We need a combined approach to revitalise this aspect of the sector in order for the farm workers to be trained and upskilled in improving bio-security measures so that they are not laid off,” Semenya said.

DAFF and SAPA are expected to meet and table a comprehensive report before the committee on the issues raised.

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