DA urges ANC government to promptly aid with the chicken vaccine

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

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

It has been almost six months since the outbreak of Avian Influenza, but the government has yet to finalise procurement of the necessary vaccines for farmers. The DA acknowledges the importance of ensuring food safety and preventing reckless vaccinations by farmers, but government’s delayed action to save farmers comes at a cost. Fortunately, the private sector is making progress with Deltamune’s vaccine registration trials.

However, the estimated monitoring cost for vaccinated flocks is a major concern, estimated at R20 000 per house, per month. This high cost is due to the interpretation of a flock by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), which defines a house as a flock. Farmers are also frustrated with the required individual samples, the limited pool of samples to five birds, and the fact that only vets are allowed to conduct post-mortem examinations and order/courier vaccines.

The proposed monitoring draft by the DALRRD is not feasible for producers from a human resource and financial standpoint. The DALRRD is currently understaffed with veterinary doctors, which only exacerbates the situation. In a recent written reply to the DA question, Minister Thoko Didiza, indicated that the department has a vacancy rate of 32% – which translates to 103 unfilled posts. Worse, poultry veterinary doctors are very scarce in this country.

The current deadlock between farmers and the DALRRD is centred on the monitoring of bird flocks. Farmers are required to prove that a flock is negative by providing 120 samples per house, and only then can the eggs go for pasteurisation. This creates delays in the registration of H5/H7 vaccines, and farmers will be blamed for these delays without considering that the monitoring and control is unaffordable. The least the government should have proposed was to subsidise the costs and provide additional manpower resources in the monitoring and control proposal.

To make matters worse, currently, the day-old layer chick supply has now been cut by 65% while layer farms are not going to be able to restock their numbers. South Africa will possibly experience country wide egg shortages around April month next year. According to Astral, the company expects the chicken to cost the consumer R2 more per kilogram during Christmas because farmers need to cover the costs to remain in the sector. Worst, recent reports indicate that 4.8 million children in South African are starving.

In September, the DA had sought urgent intervention of Minister Didiza in this regard and no reply was received. If farmers don’t receive the necessary aid before the end of November, the DA will have no choice but to escalate the matter to the presidency to avoid catastrophe. The DA will request for the placement of the animal health division of the DALRRD under administration for failing to provide the necessary phytosanitary support measures to the farmers. The proposed administration of the animal health department will include private sector involvement in managing animal diseases and animal movement control which if not attended, stands to have a detrimental impact on food security in this country.

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