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Bird flu looks set to hurt SA's battling economy

Bird flu looks set to hurt SA's battling economy

Jul 13 2017 07:00 

Lameez Omarjee 

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Johannesburg – Bird flu (H5N8), which has extended to two more farms in South Africa and which has seen trade bans from neighbouring countries, may have a negative impact on the economy, warned an analyst.

According to a statement issued by the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries, two more farms in Gauteng and Mpumalanga are affected. These farms have been immediately placed in quarantine.

“The necessary measures have been taken to contain and eliminate the disease as efficiently as possible on both farms,” said the department.  

The newly implemented Poultry Disease Management Agency system of registration sellers and traders of live chickens is working well, the department said. All role players are encouraged to comply with the registration to allow the trade of chickens without compromising animal health.

READ: Zimbabwe and Namibia ban SA poultry imports

The department acknowledged that trade had been disrupted by the bird flu, as neighbouring countries like Zimbabwe and Namibia recently banned the trade of poultry products from South Africa.

Ban is a major blow to the local industry

Dawie Maree, head of information and marketing for agriculture at FNB Business, explained that these countries, including Botswana, account for a substantial number of broiler exports.

“The ban is a major blow to the local industry which has been grappling a downturn over the last two years,” he said.

If the current ban lasts longer than three to four months, then it will lead to at most 2 500 job losses. This could also impact the Gross Value Added by 0.13%, he explained.

“The grain industry would also most likely take a knock as they provide feed to the poultry industry,” he said.

Maree told Fin24 that the longer it takes for a recovery in the sector, more jobs will be at stake. He added that the outbreak could have a negative impact on GDP in the second and third quarter of 2017.

Maree said that consumers are cautious and there may be an impact on demand for poultry products. However, he said the food safety standards of the country are secure. “Consumers don’t have to be concerned about poultry they are consuming from the shelf.”

Six months to return to normal

SA Poultry Association CEO Kevin Lovell said that a longer period is required to assess the economic impact of the outbreak.

“The bans took effect in the middle of the year and some bans have been lifted for those exporting producers who have registered compartments (a disease management measure)," he said.

"Those export products will also now be sold on the local market so depending on local supply and demand dynamics the effect could be less or more,” he said.

Affected farms have been depopulated, and it could take six months to complete the whole depopulation, initial cleaning, secondary cleaning as well as the disinfection cycle before repopulation. This will impact feed sales for 2% to 3% of the commercial layer flock and a smaller percentage of the broiler breeder flock, he explained.

Things could be back to normal in six months’ time if no further outbreaks are reported, said Lovell.

The worst case scenario would be if the flu spreads wide, causing a major supply problem. “To give context to our four outbreaks Europe had more than a thousand outbreaks this last season. We are nowhere near the impact level experienced in Europe,” he said.

It will be difficult for farmers to stop wild birds getting to their chickens. “The three big producers affected so far have all got what would be considered good biosecurity and improved the biosecurity.”

The Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries said that there has been increased surveillance of wild birds, commercial chickens and backyard chickens.

 

“Chicken owners, farmers and the public should remain vigilant and all cases of high mortalities in chickens and other birds should be reported to the nearest State Veterinarian,” said the department.

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