Farm for growing broiler chickens to the age of on
Broiler chicken farm. (Image: Getty)
  • Namibia has banned all poultry products from South Africa, after initially banning products from a single trading compartment.
  • Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland Hong Kong also have partial or blanket restrictions on SA poultry.
  • The industry has destroyed 1 million hens since the first case of avian flu was reported.
  • Things are expected to get worse, with an impact on chicken prices.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Namibia has instituted a total ban on the import of live and raw poultry from South Africa, as the industry battles to contain the spread of a highly contagious avian flu that first broke out at a Johannesburg layer farm in earlier in April.

Namibia first announced a partial ban of 21 days on poultry from South Africa on 15 April, restricting imports from one trading compartment.

On Monday, its ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform announced an immediate suspension of import and in-transit movement of live poultry and their raw products from South Africa.

“All previously issued import and in transit permits to import poultry and their products originating from South Africa are hereby canceled and recalled with immediate effect. This measure will remain effective until further notice,” the ministry said in a statement.

“Namibia continues to allow the importation of poultry and their products that are transiting through South Africa origination from other countries that are HPAI [highly pathogenic avian influenza] free,” it said.

The strain of the avian flu in South Africa, H5N1, is different from that which was behind a 2017 outbreak.

Namibia is one of several countries that now have trade restrictions placed on South Africa’s poultry. Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, and Hong Kong are also rejecting some or all poultry products from the country.  

Izaak Breitenbach, the South Poultry Association’s general manager for its Broiler Organisation, told Business Insider South Africa that the industry has destroyed about 1 million birds so far, across 10 farms, mostly broiler breeder farms and commercial layer farms.

The trade bans threaten South Africa’s chicken export revenues, which in 2019 came to R1.247 billion. South Africa exported 53,641 tonnes of poultry products during the same period. It exports mainly to the SADC region and other neighbouring countries, with broilers accounting for 93.6 % of the industry’s total poultry exports.

Breitenbach said while the situation is being well managed, the industry is preparing for things to get worse.

“We expect the disease to spread. We get one to three cases a week, and if we look ahead, we are concerned about the spread. Currently, we are monitoring about 937 farms on a daily basis to get early warning,” Breitenbach said.

Chicken prices are already on the rise, but for reasons not related to the bird flu. This is due to a 23% cost increase in raw material and chicken feed this year, Breitenbach said.

A shortage of poultry products would drive prices up even further, he said.

“The factors that will cause the price to increase is the shortage of chicken or chicken products… Currently, we don’t see that. If we have the disease spread, that the supply is short, [and is not filled by imports], then the prices might go up,” he said.

Breitenbach said the country still has enough table eggs and poultry meat going into the market for consumption, "so there’s no shortage of the product as we stand, but that might change in the future.”.

Breitenbach said the 2017 outbreak cost the industry R1.8 billion. About 20% of the national flock, or 4.7 million hens were culled, and the country had a shortage of eggs of between 20% to 50%.

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