Botswana bans SA poultry imports amid avian flu outbreak

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Botswana banned poultry and poultry product imports from South Africa after an avian flu outbreak.
Botswana banned poultry and poultry product imports from South Africa after an avian flu outbreak.
PHOTO: Paula Bronstein/Getty Images
  • The Botswana government has reportedly banned all imports of poultry and poultry products from South Africa.
  • The ban, implemented with immediate effect, came after 300 birds died at an Ekurhuleni chicken farm.
  • South Africa's agriculture department confirmed the deaths were caused by avian flu on Tuesday.

The Botswana government has banned poultry and poultry product imports from South Africa after an avian flu outbreak in Gauteng.

Botswana's agriculture ministry announced the ban on Wednesday and it has been implemented with immediate effect. The ban includes products such as meat, eggs and feathers.

On Tuesday, the South African Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development said 300 birds had died of avian influenza at a commercial chicken farm in Ekurhuleni, News24 previously reported.

Avian influenza is a viral respiratory disease among birds, believed to be transmitted by wild migratory birds. In Southern Africa, the H5N8 strain of the disease affects the poultry industry.

ALSO READ | Poultry industry on alert after avian flu detected at Gauteng chicken farm

The farm has been placed under quarantine and investigations into the outbreak are under way, said Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo.

The South African Poultry Association has placed the whole industry on high alert and said appropriate biosecurity contingency plans are being implemented.

Association spokesperson Colin Steenhuisen said the industry was still awaiting identification of the variant of avian flu. This would provide more insight into the severity of the avian flu.

"The industry has been very proactive and the cases have been restricted to one farm," he said.

'We are more prepared'

Steenhuisen said there was no need to be alarmed by the Botswana directive.

He said all cases of avian flu must be reported to the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), and this affords countries the right to halt imports to protect their own poultry industries.

He added that South Africa does not have extensive exports to Botswana, with some meat products and fertilised eggs primarily making up trade between the countries. However, he said a South African producer supplies chicken pieces to a well-known international fast food outlet in Botswana and will be severely impacted by the ban.

ALSO READ | Senegal reports H5N1 bird flu outbreak on poultry farm

Steenhuisen said chicken and eggs sold at retail facilities were safe to eat, but he reminded consumers to ensure products were cooked properly.

Steenhuisen also urged the public to report any deaths of wild birds to the authorities.

An outbreak in 2017 saw poultry farmers culling millions of birds and neighbouring countries, including Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana, banned poultry imports from South Africa.

Steenhuisen said:

We have learnt a lot since the outbreak in 2017. We know more and we are more prepared. We don't anticipate anywhere near the same devastation experienced then.

Botswana authorities have reportedly warned the public to be vigilant and to report any deaths of domestic poultry and wild birds to veterinary offices.

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