Avian flu may inflict R1.2bn damage
THE WESTERN Cape could suffer the biggest setback should the avian flu spread to the province, with potential losses estimated at more than R1.2 billion in terms of direct export income.
Paul Makube, an agricultural economist at FNB, provided this assessment in response to the confirmation of the first outbreak of the avian flu in South Africa last week.
Makube said the outbreak was bad news because the poultry industry had been under stress because of last year’s drought and was currently struggling to recover.
He said the higher imports resulted in significant price pressures on the local industry at a time when feed costs reached record highs last year.
“Job losses in the sector continues due to production cutbacks in the face of import competition and narrow margins. The outbreak of the avian flu is definitely a setback for the industry in terms of revenue loss, which will be felt across the value chain,” he said.
Makube said a further spread and depopulation or culling of birds would reduce demand for feed, particularly maize, given that it was a major ingredient in animal feed.
The reduction in output would also lift domestic prices, further adding to the already sticky meat inflation, which in May rose 1.3 percent month-onmonth and 12.3 percent yearon-year.
Makube added that if there was an outbreak of avian flu in ostriches, it would slash export earnings from ostrich meat, leather and feathers and have a negative impact on the current account.
He said historically about 90 percent of the ostrich meat was exported and the diversion to the local market would depress prices because demand was not strong enough to absorb the additional volumes.
“The Western Cape in particular will be the biggest loser as it accounts for about 77 percent of South Africa’s ostrich production. Losses could be more than R1.2bn in terms of direct export income and the cost of culling birds.
“Agriculture in the Western Cape accounts for about 4 percent of local GDP and almost 23 percent of South Africa’s agricultural GDP. In addition to the drought, further losses due to avian flu will be a serious setback for the industry.”
Agri SA said on Friday that the country’s first outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 had been confirmed in the Villiers area in the Free State.
The H5N8 strain of avian flu, which was believed to have been transmitted by wild migratory birds, has already wreaked havoc on the poultry industry in Zimbabwe where hundreds of thousand of commercial birds have already had to be culled, Agri SA said.
The Western Cape government said on Friday its vets were currently in discussion about the recent outbreak.
“We are committed to ensuring that our animal population remains disease-free and that we respond speedily to outbreaks if they should occur.
“In this financial year, we are investing R91 million to reach these objectives. In the event of a risk, our vets will put the necessary controls in place to secure ourselves against the spread of the illness.”
Agri SA said the disease was primarily spread by direct contact between healthy and infected birds or through indirect contact with contaminated equipment or other materials.
It said the virus was present in the faeces of infected birds and in secretions from their noses, mouth and eyes and could spread into domestic flocks kept outdoors through faecal contamination from wild birds while infection among indoor flocks was spread through airborne secretions and faeces.
Kevin Lovell, the chief executive of the SA Poultry Association, told Business Report on Friday the Astral farm was currently the only incidence of this virus strain in the country, with a limited number of birds affected.
However, Lovell said it could have an impact on the industry if it spread further in the country.
Lovell added that it was more widespread in Europe although the number of outbreaks there had declined.
Domestic poultry producer Astral Foods confirmed last week that a strain of the avian flu had been isolated at one of its poultry breeding sites based in the Villiers district.
The poultry firm said samples from the affected poultry had been analysed by the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute and a pro-active decision was taken to quarantine the farm and the specific site affected would be depleted of all birds.
This will be done in collaboration with state veterinarians and the NSPCA, with the depletion done according to internationally accepted standards. – firstname.lastname@example.org
Samples from the affected poultry had been analysed by the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute.
The first outbreak of the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N8 has been confirmed in South Africa, in the Villiers area in the Free State, says AgriSA.