‘Ob­serve ba­sic biose­cu­rity’

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Sandile Mchunu

THE DE­PART­MENT of Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries (Daff) has called for all chicken keep­ers to ob­serve ba­sic biose­cu­rity mea­sures in or­der to pre­vent con­tact with wild birds. The de­part­ment took this ac­tion in an ef­fort to curb the spread of the H5N8 avian in­fluenza.

This can be achieved in com­mer­cial farms by im­prov­ing biose­cu­rity and in free range farms by sim­ply re­mov­ing feed and wa­ter from where it at­tracts wild birds.

Avian In­fluenza is caused by viruses adapted to birds and is clas­si­fied as ei­ther highly path­o­genic or low path­o­genic by the World Or­gan­i­sa­tion for An­i­mal Health. The type that has been re­ported is highly path­o­genic and is ex­tremely con­ta­gious.

Min­is­ter Sen­zeni Zok­wana said: “Our team of vet­eri­nar­i­ans has swiftly re­sponded to this threat. We have placed the af­fected farms un­der quar­an­tine and the af­fected birds have been eu­thanised and the eggs de­stroyed. Ap­prox­i­mately 260 000 birds have been culled.”

Lo­cal poul­try pro­duc­ers such as RCL Foods, Astral Foods and Sov­er­eign Food have put nec­es­sary mea­sures in place to en­sure that the out­break does not af­fect their op­er­a­tions.

RCL Foods, which owns Rain­bow Chicken, said fol­low­ing the out­break of avian in­fluenza in Zim­babwe, RCL Foods had put in place en­hanced biose­cu­rity mea­sures in all of its farms.

“We have in­tro­duced even more strin­gent biose­cu­rity mea­sures in­clud­ing a com­plete lock­down in terms of ac­cess to our farming op­er­a­tions, in­creased sur­veil­lance pro­grammes, pro­tec­tion against wild bird in­fil­tra­tion, as well as the sus­pen­sion of the in­ter­re­gional trans­fer of eggs and chicks.

“We have also al­tered some of our op­er­a­tional pro­ce­dures. We are mind­ful of the se­ri­ous­ness of the sit­u­a­tion and are mon­i­tor­ing it closely,” an RCL Foods spokesper­son said.

De­spite these pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sures the de­part­ment con­tin­ued to alert poul­try own­ers about the em­i­nent threat of avian in­fluenza when Zim­babwe re­ported their first case at the end of last month. The dis­ease, which at that time had been re­ported in 14 coun­tries, two of which were in Africa, had been con­firmed in Zim­babwe, mak­ing it the third coun­try in Africa to be af­fected.

Zok­wana said his team had since met with the poul­try pro­duc­ers and had de­vised a so­lu­tion that would pro­vide the de­sired dis­ease man­age­ment out­comes and im­prove trace­abil­ity, while en­sur­ing that mi­cro busi­nesses con­tin­ued with their op­er­a­tions.

“The buy­ers or sell­ers of more than five live chick­ens for any pur­pose other than di­rect slaugh­ter at a reg­is­tered abat­toir will be sub­jected to cer­tain con­di­tions,” Zok­wana said.

Some of the con­di­tions in­cluded reg­is­ter­ing with the Poul­try Dis­ease Man­age­ment Agency and only reg­is­tered sell­ers and buy­ers were al­lowed to trade and it was the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the seller and the buyer to en­sure that their coun­ter­part was reg­is­tered.

Mean­while Gareth Lloy­dJones, chief com­mer­cial of­fi­cer at Ecow­ize Group said the lo­cal com­mer­cial poul­try in­dus­try was at high risk of the out­break turn­ing into a pan­demic with ma­jor fi­nan­cial and op­er­a­tional im­pli­ca­tions. Ecow­ize is one of South Africa’s lead­ing hy­giene and san­i­ta­tion ser­vice providers for the food, phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal and health­care in­dus­tries

PHOTO: OUPA MOKOENA

Daff Min­is­ter Sen­zeni Zok­wana said vet­eri­nar­i­ans re­sponded swiftly to H5N8 out­break.

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