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Country must brace itself for looming poultry crisis - Dr Xolani Dlamini

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The country is facing a looming poultry crisis and will soon feel the full effect of the ban on imports of poultry products from South Africa if the outbreak of avian flu (bird flu) is not quickly averted.

 

This week, South African media revealed that the Mpumalanga and Gauteng Provinces, which are not far from Swaziland, have reported similar cases of bird flu.

Director of  Veterinary Services Dr Xolani Dlamini, whilst appreciating  producers for not panicking and rushing to increase prices following the ban, fears that soon the country may find itself faced with a crisis.

It is feared that as soon as the existing stock already out in the market is depleted, poultry products will be scarce and that may result in prices being reviewed upwards.

Dr. Dlamini when contacted about the pending calamity the country faces said: “We must thank the producers for not quickly reacting to the market uncertainty caused by the ban on  poultry products. The challenges or the effects will definitely be felt by the consumer in the next few weeks when we start to run out of chicken because nothing will be imported in the period between the time the ban was issued and lag time, which is six weeks.” 

National Chicks Operations Director Dave Chumming said they were already feeling the brunt of the ban.

He said before the ban, they were hatching about 80 000 chicks a day and now had scaled down to 10 000.

Dave disclosed that they are working with the ministry of agriculture to ensure that the country averts the possibility of shelves being depleted with no chicken meat. 

closely

“We are working closely with the ministry in sourcing proper documentation and also liasing with the South African Department of Agriculture to try get the product at the safe zones”. 

“However, I must also disclose that if we fail to get the proper documentation within this week, it will result in the industry failing to deliver to the market chicken meat. For us as National Chicks, on calculation we will be forced to at least get about half a million chicks, which on its own is not going to be a possibility as that will require specially made trucks to transport them into the country,” he stated. 

Dave disclosed that they are tirelessly working on the issue with cooperation of the ministry and are hoping to get the proper documentation to avert the challenges placed by the ban on live chickens and thus curb the spread of avian influenza. 

The Agriculture Department in the Republic of South Africa banned the sale of live chickens until the H5N8 strain has been eliminated. 

The country was forced to do likewise and ban or stop any imports of chicken and or any products to help contain the deadly chicken disease.  

An expert within the ministry of agriculture confided to this newspaper that the country is small in size, hence the reason it had to effect strict measures to protect the industry. 

“The H5N8 strain if it can be dictated it can mean catastrophe for the country because the only available option is to kill and destroy all the infected chickens and monitor the area for some time”. 

The expert said the country is in safe hands as once such was dictated in the neighboring country, the ministry increased its monitoring mission and of course as a first measure it stopped all imports of live chickens into Swaziland. 

The expert revealed that extensive work is being done in monitoring and protecting the poultry industry.  

“We’re investigating each and every case reported to us, where famers are reporting high number of cases of bird mortality, we take the case very  seriously. However, we are still getting normal reports as our tests are still negative on the H5N8 strain cases.” 

A quick visit to the city’s big retail shops have shown that so far there is no in movement in the price of chicken portions or by-products. 

“The only justification for these could be that the supermarkets are clearing the available stock and there is no way we can run away from the price hike because the demand will be higher than the supply as production will be very low with lack of eggs and available chicks to produce the end product,” said one economist. 

Depending on the outlet one visits, 2kg portions cost between E49.95 to E53.00.  One independent farmer brought to the fore the harsh reality of the ban when he disclosed that they are dispatching the last batch of chicken and are also clueless on where to get the chicks due to the shortages.     

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Sibusiso Mngadi, former Central Bank of  Swaziland communications manager, issued a stern warning on his Facebook post: “This is not a scam but, believe you me, chicken meat will run out in this country in the next month or two. Most farmers are out of business because the country cannot import fertile broiler eggs from SA as a result of the bird flu outbreak there.

 Do all you can to stock up whilst you can. Chicken meat remains the most affordable protein in the market”. The South African Agriculture Department implemented numerous conditions for the sale and trade of live chickens to curb the spread of avian influenza. Their department’s vets responded swiftly to the threat.

Sellers of live chickens, including the commercial as well as the traders who buy and sell those chickens must register with the Poultry Disease Management Agency. 

Only registered sellers and buyers are allowed to trade and it is the responsibility of both the seller and buyer to ensure their counterpart is registered.

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