South Africa culls tens of millions of chickens in effort to include hen flu outbreaks : NPR

Chickens on a hen farm in Lichtenburg, South Africa, Thursday, March 23, 2023.

Denis Farrell/AP

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Denis Farrell/AP

Chickens on a hen farm in Lichtenburg, South Africa, Thursday, March 23, 2023.

Denis Farrell/AP

CAPE TOWN, South Africa — South Africa has culled about 7.5 million chickens in an effort to include dozens of outbreaks of two separate strains of avian influenza that threaten to create a scarcity of eggs and poultry for customers, the federal government and nationwide poultry affiliation mentioned Tuesday.

At the least 205,000 chickens have died from hen flu in at the least 60 separate outbreaks throughout the nation, with greater than half of these outbreaks in Gauteng province, which incorporates the nation’s largest metropolis, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria.

Some grocery shops in Johannesburg had been limiting the variety of eggs prospects had been allowed to purchase this week — in some circumstances to 1 carton of six eggs — and the federal government acknowledged there have been “provide constraints.”

The federal government introduced roughly 2.5 million chickens bred for his or her meat had been culled. The South African Poultry Affiliation mentioned one other 5 million egg-laying chickens had been culled. The 7.5 million birds represented about 20-30% of South Africa’s complete hen inventory, South African Poultry Affiliation common supervisor Izaak Breitenbach mentioned.

The federal government was transferring to fast-track new import permits for firms to herald eggs from different international locations “to make sure ample provides for customers,” Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza mentioned. Her ministry can also be contemplating embarking on a vaccination program to halt the hen flu outbreaks and mentioned the variety of farms with circumstances was growing.

Neighboring Namibia has banned hen meat and egg imports from South Africa.

The outbreaks are hitting an business already struggling as a result of an electrical energy disaster. Breitenbach mentioned South Africa has had three main hen flu outbreaks in recent times, and the newest ones had been “by far the worst,” already costing the business losses of at the least $25 million.

Vaccines would must be imported and hopefully be prepared to make use of in two to 6 months, he mentioned.

Wilhelm Mare, chairman of the poultry group within the South African Veterinary Affiliation, mentioned as many as 8.5 million egg-laying chickens may very well be affected and greater than 10 million birds general.

“It tells me we’re going to have issues with this case for fairly some time,” Mare mentioned, calling it “catastrophic” for the business.

The USA’ Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention mentioned final month that hen flu outbreaks had been on the rise globally, with greater than 21,000 outbreaks the world over between 2013 and 2022. Chook flu solely not often infects people.

Eggs are an necessary and reasonably priced supply of protein in South Africa, however costs have risen steadily this yr and the shortages brought on by hen flu had been anticipated to push costs up once more and add to excessive meals inflation for South Africans.

The hen business in South Africa has already been hit laborious this yr by energy shortages, which have resulted in deliberate common electrical energy blackouts to save lots of vitality, however badly impacting companies.

South African farmers mentioned in January they’d been pressured to cull almost 10 million younger chicks, as Africa’s most superior financial system skilled report blackouts at first of the yr, inflicting manufacturing to sluggish dramatically and resulting in overcrowding on hen farms.

The poultry business has additionally lobbied the South African authorities to impose everlasting duties on international locations like Brazil, Denmark, Poland, Spain, and the US for what the business refers to because the “dumping” of low-cost hen merchandise in South Africa, threatening native companies.