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Avian Flu Outbreak in Local Market Could Affect South Africa’s Food Security

One of the reasons why imports are important to South Africa’s Food Security

An outbreak of avian influenza (AI) at a chicken farm in Gauteng has shown once again that the South African poultry industry can be vulnerable to fluctuations in poultry supply, which invariably push up the price.

Avian influenza, when it occurs in a country, has a ripple effect throughout the entire poultry industry.

“There is a move to reduce imports of chicken by the local South African producers, through safeguard, Anti-Dumping tariff increases and trade barrier restrictions,” says Paul Matthews, CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE), “but an outbreak like this, which could have a huge effect on South Africa’s most important protein”.

Avian influenza is extremely contagious among chickens.  It is carried by wild birds and becomes fatal when transmitted to poultry.  While it does not affect human health, it devastates the poultry industry.

“We last had a major AI outbreak in 2018,” continues Matthew, “but the import industry was able to supply poultry and keep prices steady.  With new tariffs on imports, and a campaign to eradicate imports completely by local poultry producers, South Africa will no longer have that safety net.”

An outbreak of AI anywhere in the country has an effect on the entire industry.  Production will slow as poultry farmers become compelled to take additional health measures, and neighbouring countries suspend trade.

At the same time that the Department of Agriculture announced the outbreak of AI in Gauteng, it also noted huge wild bird die-offs in the Eastern Cape, and the province is on high alert while local birds are being tested.

An investigation is taking place to establish the current impact on the poultry industry.

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