Business Maverick


It’s make or break for Western Cape egg producers after bird flu lays waste to top supplier

It’s make or break for Western Cape egg producers after bird flu lays waste to top supplier
An undated file picture shows South African battery chickens in a poultry farm in Cape Town, South Africa. (Photo: EPA / NIC BOTHMA)

The highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus has hit the Cape Winelands, threatening egg supplies – and hiking prices – in the province. This is likely to affect consumers for the rest of the year.

South Africa’s largest egg producer, Quantum Foods, has advised shareholders that HPAI was detected at its Lemoenkloof layer farm outside Paarl in the second half of April 2023.

At the time of the HPAI outbreak, the farm housed about 420,000 layer hens, all of which had to be culled. Quantum, owner of the Nulaid brand, has estimated that the direct loss resulting from this outbreak of bird flu is about R34-million (which includes the cost of the layer hens, feed and eggs that had to be destroyed). 

It said while this loss is not expected to affect its financial results for the current reporting period, which will be published on Sens around 26 May 2023, it will affect the results for the year ending 30 September 2023.

The HPAI outbreak has also affected other farmers in the area and is expected to result in a reduction in egg production and costs in the province.

This is related to the earlier warning from the Western Cape Veterinary Services on 2 May about bird flu in the Paardeberg region, after it confirmed an outbreak on two commercial layer farms. 

The first outbreak was confirmed on 21 April, and the second on 25 April. 

More than 120,000 birds had to be culled. 

The Western Cape had not seen the virus in commercial poultry since early last year.

Avian influenza is controlled under the Animal Diseases Act of 1984. Any suspicion of the disease – in wild or domestic birds – must be reported to the local state veterinarian.

Avian influenza A(H5N1) viruses have been detected in domestic and farmed poultry, wild birds and sea mammals.

Two weeks ago, a leading meat importer warned that the bird flu outbreak in Brazil could heap pressure on the South African poultry market, saying that it was only a matter of time before HPAI hit the world’s second-largest poultry producing country.  

Fred Hume of Hume International, a meat wholesaler in Gqeberha, had called on South Africa to urgently institute a heat treatment protocol for mechanically deboned meat, in case of a bird flu outbreak in Brazil.

“Without this, South Africans should brace for impact, as the serious threat of an outbreak in Brazil could have a devastating impact on local supply chains, significantly driving up prices or even causing shortages,” he said. DM/BM


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