/ 16 November 2023

Egg and poultry meat supply is steadily increasing after bird flu outbreak, says agriculture department

The supply of egg and poultry meat is steadily increasing following shortages triggered by a bird flu outbreak that began in April

The supply of egg and poultry meat is steadily increasing following shortages triggered by a bird flu outbreak that began in April, the department of agriculture, land reform and rural development said.

“We are happy that the highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak is under control and that 70% of farms that were not infected continue to produce eggs and chickens. Since the egg production cycle is not too long, we expect the situation to normalise early next year,” said the department’s spokesperson, Reggie Ngcobo.

South Africa has been importing eggs and poultry meat from countries such as Brazil, the United States and Argentina to ease the shortages.

“We started importing … fertilised hatching eggs in early October and that will eliminate any meat shortage that may arise,” Izaak Breitenbach, of the South African Poultry Association, told the Mail & Guardian.

In preparation for the upcoming festive season, the agriculture department said it had  imported nine million fertilised eggs, 37 802 tonnes of day-old chicks, 62 tonnes of egg product and 30 986 tonnes of poultry meat under strict biosecurity risk assessments.

“As a department, we don’t dictate which countries should make business sense for South African retailers to import eggs from but only ensure that biosecurity risk assessments are conducted when importers apply for import permits,” Ngcobo said.

Since April, several poultry farms in South Africa have experienced outbreaks of avian influenza, a highly contagious viral infection that affects poultry and wild birds. The country has been hit by two strains, namely influenza A(H5N1) and influenza A(H7N6).

Last month, more than 45 000 hens were slaughtered, burnt and buried in neighbouring Mozambique to prevent the spread of bird flu after the country reported an outbreak in the district of Morrumbene in the southern Inhambane province.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases has said there is a low risk of humans being infected with avian flu.

Globally, only eight cases of influenza A(H5N1) in humans have been reported to the World Health Organisation in 2023, despite large outbreaks in poultry and wild birds around the world.