After months of bad news for consumers and the poultry industry alike due to our unprecedented avian flu outbreak, there are, apparently, glimmers of hope. Unfortunately this is accompanied by confusing messages around compensation, vaccines, imports, food security and the long-term viability of our poultry industry. In today’s Poultry Analysis, we try to get to the facts.
There are contradictory messages about whether there is compensation available to mitigate the losses to the egg and poultry industry. On the one hand, deputy president Paul Mashatile announced on October 26th that government was looking into an emergency fund for compensation. But on the following day, the 27th, it was confirmed by a parliamentary portfolio committee that there were no funds for compensation. However, on that very same day Mashatile told the NCOP that the Agriculture Minster would be announcing an aid package.
With these contradictory messages, only time will tell which version is true.
South Africa does not have the capacity to manufacture vaccines, say experts.
This will place further strain on the industry, particularly the smaller farmer who can be wiped out by the epidemic but will not be able to afford the cost of imported vaccines.
The confusion continues in the field of imports and exports. On the one hand, the Department of Agriculture has announced a regime of import permits for eggs and poultry.
However, importers are puzzled by this move, as most trading partners remain closed because of government delays, so the permits are inapplicable anyway.
Further bad news for trade is that Botswana is the latest country to join Namibia, Lesotho and Mozambique in closing their borders to South African imports further imperilling trade relations with those countries.
There is just no good news in the long term for South Africa’s poultry industry. It will take more than a year for the industry to recover and in the meantime there are unresolved conversations around compensation, vaccination, mitigation against further outbreaks – over and above the ongoing problems with loadshedding, fuel prices, feed costs, infrastructure collapse and the lack of transformation. A bumpy ride for the poultry industry, unfortunately, also requires belt-tightening from the consumer. Chicken and eggs still remain the country’s most affordable protein even as the prices go up.
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In the spirit of never letting a good crisis go to waste, a number of role-players are claiming that the avian flu epidemic is a good time to completely re-evaluate our poultry industry. The Humane Society advocates better farming practices while Fred Hume of Hume International says we need to take a long hard look at industry practices which are inflexible and counter-productive.
This will mean going right back to the drawing board with a new Poultry Master Plan.