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No more bird flu outbreaks in the Western Cape, festive season chicken shortage expected to be ‘minimal’

No more bird flu outbreaks in the Western Cape, festive season chicken shortage expected to be ‘minimal’
Battery hens in a chicken shed in Suffolk, England, on 6 February 2007. (Photo: Jamie McDonald / Getty Images)

In the seven outbreaks in the province, 1,569,702 birds were exposed to the virus, with 1,398,757 culled, according to the agriculture department.

Western Cape poultry farmers can breathe a sigh of relief because there have been no further outbreaks of the H7 and H5 bird flu strains in the province. 

The province was the fifth and last to be hit by avian flu after the introduction of chickens from an infected province during October. 

Cases have been reported in Gauteng, Mpumalanga, the Free State and Limpopo, while the Western Cape had not experienced any outbreaks since June.

Reported cases were mostly in the Garden Route area. There were fears that the country might head into the festive season without eggs and chickens to eat. Egg prices skyrocketed in response to shortages and demand. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Looming shortages – cook without eggs with these alternatives

During a visit to Sir Lowry’s Pass and Gordon’s Bay, Daily Maverick found that the outbreak had no adverse effects on poultry farms, although there was a noticeable rise in demand for chicken and eggs.

In the township of Nomzamo in Strand, small-scale farmer Lungelo Ndlwana said the flu was not a provincial issue but a regional one. “The Garden Route side was mostly affected by the flu,” he said. “Coming down to the City of Cape Town, there are no issues. We have supplies from the affected areas, which affected the supplies, but other than that, we had no challenges this side.” 

Another egg seller in the area, who only gave out his first name, Dumisani, said this was an opportunity for them to grow as small businesses. “Orders were coming in thick and fast when the flu started,” he said excitedly. “We capitalised on that. Even big retailers who do not usually buy from us were calling. Now, we just need to maintain those contacts, and this has also proven that buying from small businesses is possible if there is a willingness to do so.” 

Poultry is the largest industry in South Africa’s agricultural sector and contributes significantly to the economy.

bird flu

In Nomzamo, which is 45km from Cape Town, Daily Maverick learnt that they had not been affected by the bird flu outbreaks – in fact, the demand for chicken and eggs had risen. (Photo: Velani Ludidi)

Recovery ‘under way’

Dr Noluvuyo Magadla, director responsible for animal health in the Western Cape agriculture department, confirmed there have been no further outbreaks in the Western Cape. 

“All the birds on the farm in George were culled and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner, as approved by the Department of Environment.

“In the seven outbreaks, 1,569,702 birds had been exposed to the virus, with 1,398,757 culled and destroyed.” 

The South African Poultry Association said the recovery process from the H7 and H5 bird flu strains is “well under way” after its infection rate peaked. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Chicken back on the festive menu as poultry industry ‘well’ on its way to avian flu recovery

This had been largely due to the swift action by producers, and the poultry industry expected minimal shortages over the festive season. 

“After very serious initial concerns, the recovery process is well under way,” said Izaak Breitenbach, general manager of the association’s Broiler Organisation. Speculation about huge shortages of chicken this year and into 2024 is, therefore, not based on the facts, and does not take account of recent developments.”

It remains to be seen whether egg prices will be reduced as the situation normalises. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Shaun Slayer says:

    Approximately 12% of the country’s chicken industry is currently under quarantine. The BFAP reports that poultry prices were slightly higher, up by 1.4% for the second consecutive month, marking a year-on-year increase of 16.8%. Lets see if this price will drop for X-mas as I expect it won’t. While beef prices in South Africa have seen a general decrease, ranging from 2% to 13% lower compared to September 2022. Lyk my texan steaks is die in ding die kersfees.

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