Ex­perts call for calm in avian in­fluenza out­break on two farms

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - Sandile Mchunu

POULTRY ex­perts yes­ter­day called for calm in the in­dus­try fol­low­ing the ban on South African im­ports by neigh­bour­ing states, stat­ing that the avian in­fluenza (HPAI) H5N8 out­break had only been re­ported on two farms.

FNB se­nior agri­cul­tural econ­o­mist Paul Makube said the two farms made up a very small por­tion of the poultry in­dus­try. He said the in­dus­try could only find rea­sons to worry if the out­break es­ca­lated to other ar­eas.

“The dis­ease is con­fined to two farms, a layer and a breeder farm. So the out­break has no po­ten­tial to harm the poultry in­dus­try,” said Makube. “It will have a rip­ple ef­fect on eggs and day-old chicks, but South Africa re­mains on high alert to en­sure that it doesn’t spread.”

To­day the govern­ment is ex­pected to brief the coun­try on mea­sures taken in or­der to al­lay the fears. This week Botswana, Namibia and Zim­babwe im­posed an in­def­i­nite ban on poultry prod­ucts from South Africa, in­clud­ing hatch­ing eggs, eggs, frozen chicken and me­chan­i­cally deboned meat.

High­est pri­or­ity

Sov­er­eign Foods chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris Coombes said there was no in­di­ca­tion of avian In­fluenza on any of its farms or op­er­a­tions.

“The health and well­be­ing of our an­i­mals is our high­est pri­or­ity and Sov­er­eign Foods’ stan­dard oper­at­ing pro­ce­dure (SOP) en­sures strict ac­cess con­trol to and be­tween our sites. In ad­di­tion to the SOP we have strin­gent bi­o­log­i­cal risk con­trols (BRC) in place to avoid and pre­vent ex­po­sure to dis­ease. In or­der to min­imise risk dur­ing this time, Sov­er­eign Foods has sus­pended all site visits from ex­ter­nal par­ties,” said Coombes.

An­other poultry pro­ducer As­tral Foods said one of its farms where the out­break was re­ported in the Vil­liers district had quar­an­tined and the spe­cific site af­fected de­pop­u­lated.

The com­pany said it had es­tab­lished a 24/7 “war room” at its cor­po­rate of­fice in Cen­tu­rion last week, manned by its key op­er­a­tional ex­ec­u­tives, in or­der to ef­fec­tively and ef­fi­ciently man­age the sit­u­a­tion.

“Fol­low­ing on from the ini­tial out­break, ab­nor­mal mor­tal­ity was re­ported on an­other site on the same farm. A de­ci­sion was taken to de­pop­u­late all lay­ing sites on this farm,” As­tral said.

PHOTO: PHANDO JIKELO

Lu­vuyo Tshisa from Phillippi sells chicken next to the Lans­down road in the West­ern Cape. Fears of avian in­fluenza spread­ing af­fect the poultry in­dus­try.

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