South Africa

South Africa to tackle chicken shortages with potential trade, vaccination measures

South Africa’s government is assessing trade measures and the possibility of vaccination to ease shortages of poultry products and contain the spread of avian flu in the country.

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza will start work on improving the efficiency of issuing import permits for egg products, according to a statement emailed on Monday.

On the broiler side, Didiza and Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel are assessing some trade instruments to ease the supply of chicken meat.

The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza in the northern parts of the country has already caused egg shortages, with some shop shelves in cities such as Johannesburg left empty.

There are also fears of price increases for chicken, which is an important source of animal protein for many South Africans. JSE-listed chicken and egg producers have flagged losses due to the disease, as farmers are required to cull birds to control the spread. 

Patel reintroduced anti-dumping duties on bone-in chicken portions from Brazil, Ireland, Poland, Spain and Denmark in August to protect the local poultry industry.

Groups, including the opposition Democratic Alliance, have called on the government to temporarily suspend tariffs on chicken to help address the projected supply shortfall and cushion consumers against price hikes for all poultry products.

The Trade Department’s spokesman, Bongani Lukhele, referred queries on whether the instruments that the ministers are assessing include import tariffs and anti-dumping duties to the Agriculture Department.

Reggie Ngcobo, the Agriculture Department’s spokesman, said he could not confirm any details before the ministers do the assessment and engage the industry on the trade instruments they have agreed on. 

Didiza is also looking at the possibility of vaccination and reviewing applications by various suppliers, according to her department.

The South African Veterinarian Association said in a statement last week the poultry industry is facing an “existential crisis” due to the avian flu outbreak and called on the government to permit the immediate importation of vaccines targeting the H7 and H5 influenza viruses.

While accurate figures are difficult to quote, reports from poultry producers and veterinarians indicate that as much as 30% of the country’s commercial layers and 25% of the broiler breeding stock have so far been affected, according to Wilhelm Maré, chairman of the association’s Poultry Group.

“All the efforts by the industry and government to contain the disease have been ineffective,” Maré said by phone on Tuesday. “The only option is to vaccinate with an effective vaccine.”


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