Has the ANC government culled the poultry industry?

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

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

The DA has conducted a biosecurity compliant oversight visit to Eagle’s Pride Hatchery farm in Roodeplaat, Pretoria to assess the impact of the avian flu outbreak on its  poultry stock.

Consistent with the disease outbreak trends reported across South Africa, we were informed that, while they had enforced strict biosecurity measures – as mandated by the veterinary services – the farm had no choice but to cull all of its breeder stock and started importing eggs for broiler chickens. With H7N6 strain, the poultry farms are incurring financial and potential job losses.

Under these grim conditions, which affect South Africa’s entire poultry sector, the threat to food security is exponentially high. While egg and chicken cuts supply are still relatively stable, prices have soared substantially – adding to the cost-of-living crisis in the country. This carries significant risk for most households, who rely on chicken products as their main source of protein. According to the South Africa Poultry Association (SAPA), even if the avian flu outbreak were to be contained today – it will take farmers at least a year to reach their pre-outbreak levels of production.

In a presentation before Parliament’s portfolio committee on Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development recently , the DDG in the Department insinuated  that the government is under no obligation to support farmers who have been forced to cull their stock. The DA completely rejects this position, and we demand that a poultry industry recovery fund be implemented as a matter of urgency. Avian influenza is obliterating our farming sector, and we need urgent measures to support our farmers before it is destroyed.

In the briefing, SAPA painted a very bleak picture:

  • 927 farms, for broiler and egg producers, have been impacted by the avian flu outbreak;
  • To date more than 5 million layer hens and broiler breeders have been culled. With an additional 3.5 million layer hens that are affected by the H7N6 strain;
  • About 2.5 million broiler breeders have been culled; and
  • The layers industry is the most affected with 64 facilities of breeding stock for egg layers affected by the outbreak. The industry has indicated that the culled bird population represents about 20-30% of South Africa’s total layer stock

The fact that the disease has managed to spread with such ferocity and in a short space of time, underscores the catastrophic failure in enforcing biosecurity measures. Farmers have been left to fight the outbreak on their own while the government proclaims its hands are tied.

The current outbreak could have been prevented if the ANC government did not fail to capacitate our vaccine supply after the 2017 outbreak. As it stands, farmers are rather encouraged to cull their poultry stock without the provision of vaccines or any other form of support.

The DA will persist in the fight for the enactment of a poultry industry recovery fund and the rollout of a comprehensive vaccine programme. We must save our poultry industry to ensure food security and protect jobs.

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