Bird flu sees South Africa toughen live chicken sales

By Oscar Rousseau

- Last updated on GMT

South Africa has toughened biosecurity measures, but has been hit with trade bans
South Africa has toughened biosecurity measures, but has been hit with trade bans

Related tags South africa Chicken Poultry

Tightened controls on live chicken sales have been rolled out as South Africa’s government combats the country’s first-ever outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza (AI) strain H5N8. 

The outbreak, reported in June, has seen 260,000 chickens culled in an attempt to prevent AI spreading from two farms in Mpumalanga to other regions of the country.

To do this, controls on live bird sales have been tightened by South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) to ensure the disease does not reach other poultry hubs in the country.

The department had initially suggested a nationwide ban on live bird sales, but this triggered widespread concern, forcing DAFF to retract the decision in favour of beefing up biosecurity measures.

Stephen Heath, chief legal officer at chicken processor RCL Foods, told this site that the business is monitoring the outbreak carefully. 

“Following the outbreak of avian influenza in Zimbabwe, RCL Foods put in place enhanced biosecurity measures at all our farms. As a result of the recent outbreak in South Africa, 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 inter-regional 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”.

Trade bans for raw meat, eggs

The South African Poultry Association has also worked closely with DAFF to ensure that chicken traders, large and small, are regulated and that they take appropriate measures to avoid an outbreak.
Buyers and sellers of more than five chickens for any purpose other than direct slaughter need to adhere to a number of conditions, which include registering with the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA).

Only traders registered with the PDMA are able to trade live birds and any business that registers with the body will have to sign a document to confirm it will adhere to the government’s control measures. Firms that do not register with the PDMA will be unable to sell live birds.

The conditions cover sellers of live broiler chickens, layer hens and a string of different chicken breeds.

Since the outbreak was first reported, a number of South Africa’s trading partners have suspended imports of raw meat, eggs and live birds, although processed meat is still being exported. DAFF could not be reached to confirm which countries have suspended trade with South Africa.

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