The Northern Cape is the only province in the country spared from bird flu, which has wiped out up to 20% of the country’s lay chickens
This indicates the virus is not yet under control. Meanwhile, more than 4.2 million chickens were culled or have died from the virus, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said in its 2016-’17 annual report, which was presented to the Parliamentary portfolio committee on agriculture, forestry and fisheries.
The first outbreak of the virus was reported on June 22, in Mpumalanga.
On October 2, 67 outbreaks were reported and the figure has increased over the past three days.
Two more outbreaks were reported in the Western Cape, bringing the total to 80.
Meanwhile, the poultry industry said vaccination against the virus must be approved to prevent laying chickens from being completely wiped out. The industry has already lost 20% of its laying chickens.
In a further effort to salvage the situation, discussions are being held with government to ensure that fertile eggs are imported to close the gap created by culling.
Millions of eggs also had to be destroyed.
Annette Steyn, DA spokesperson on agriculture, said vaccinating chickens could prevent the disease from becoming an epidemic in the country, but it looks like there is no way to salvage the remainder of the chickens. She said at this rate, there will soon be no chicks left.
Plans must also be made with the sale of live chickens to prevent the spreading of the disease.
The department said it received R40 million from treasury to use as compensation for healthy chickens which must culled as part of preventative measures. Further discussions are being held to get more money.
More cold fronts are expected and this, coupled with other favourable conditions, could create further spreading of the virus. More state funding is thus urgently needed to save an industry that creates thousands of jobs.
In the Western Cape, farmers’ estimated production loss for chickens and eggs is projected at more than R800 million.
The department has not yet announced the guidelines on how affected farmers will be compensated.
There is also no certainty that farmers will be compensated for eggs that are destroyed.
Eggs are a protein source for more than 5 million families every month.