Avian flu: DA calls for less talk and more action

Issued by Noko Masipa MP – DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
06 Oct 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Noko Masipa MP

The DA notes the ongoing engagements between Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Thoko Didiza, and stakeholders in the poultry industry regarding the avian flu outbreak.

While talks are ongoing, farmers are losing their stock and are losing millions of rands every day.

We therefore call on the DALRRD to establish a workstream that will provide support to farmers, help get the industry back on track and fast track the procurement of vaccine supply for the H7N6 influenza.

Because South Africa is prone to avian flu outbreaks, it is simply unacceptable that – when this latest outbreak came about, South Africa was found flat-footed and ill-prepared for the disease. The blame lies squarely with the DALRRD as they are tasked with ensuring that the country has disease surveillance measures in place, including enough vaccine stock to deal with any outbreaks.

With the extensive bird culling taking place to prevent the further spread of the disease, it will take the poultry industry a significant amount of time to recover from the losses. This is precisely why it is important that disaster funding is made available as a matter of urgency to support poultry farmers.

It is simply unacceptable that the South African government is choosing to stand idly by as farmers register multi-million-rand losses. In Europe and America, governments are quick to provide compensatory support to their farmers whenever they are forced to contend with a disease outbreak.

Five years ago, the former Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) made the cardinal mistake of refusing to procure vaccines for chickens and pursue an industry wide vaccination drive. We are hoping that the DALRRD will urgently procure the vaccine to avoid catastrophic outcomes from this strain and prevent further job losses in the industry.

The DALRRD must consider going into blended finance partnership with commercial banks to save the R60 billion poultry industry.

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