Bird flu hits Gauteng the hardest


The government must intervene urgently to obtain vaccines for the poultry industry which is badly affected by the bird flu outbreak. So says the DA in Gauteng, the province which forms the epicenter of the poultry industry and is also worst affected by the disease.

“Thousands of people depend on this industry for food and work and therefore it is crucial that the vaccine is obtained as quickly as possible. Farmers are suffering enormous financial losses and hundreds of workers are facing layoffs,” says Bronwynn Engelbrecht, the DA’s spokesperson for agriculture and rural development.

The industry is worst affected by laying hens that have had to be put down or can no longer produce eggs.

According to statistics from the Poultry Association, more than 11 million chickens are affected by the bird flu outbreak in Gauteng alone, with more than 3.8 million chickens being culled. Moreover, the numbers continue to rise.

This is more than a third of the chickens that had to be culled nationwide or could no longer produce eggs. Nationwide, there are ten million chickens out of a total of 27 million that are currently unable to produce any more eggs.

The problem is particularly clear when consumers are faced with an empty shop shelf and cannot find a single egg for sale. When there are eggs on the shelf, in some cases they are about double the price they were before the outbreak.

“The limited availability of eggs and chickens also causes the price of poultry products, especially eggs, to skyrocket. This will affect other products and businesses further down the consumer value chain that depend on eggs and chicken meat for their end products.”

On behalf of the DA, Engelbrecht appeals to the Gauteng premier, Panyaza Lesufi, and the Gauteng MEC for agriculture and rural development, Mbali Hlophe, to provide financial assistance to poultry farmers affected by the bird flu outbreak.

“During a recent information session of Thoko Didiza, minister of agriculture and rural development, the department indicated that it is prepared to acquire vaccines abroad, through art. 21 of the Medicines Act to grant access to unregistered medicines.

“It is used in emergency cases where conventional therapies have been ruled out, have failed or are not available as marketed products. Not all countries have vaccines for the virulent H7 virus, therefore it will be essential that the department ensures that countries with a tested H7 vaccine are urgently approached to save the poultry sector in South Africa.”