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July 13, 2024
Poultry & Livestock Review Africa
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SOUTH AFRICAN POULTRY INDUSTRY CALLS FOR URGENT ACTION TO PREVENT AVIAN INFLUENZA CATASTROPHE

The South African poultry industry is facing a critical juncture as it grapples with the devastating impact of the H7N6 strain of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). In the wake of a year marred by significant losses, including the culling of 9.5 million birds, the industry is sounding the alarm for immediate intervention to avert another catastrophic outbreak.

Traditionally reliant on a stamping out policy, the industry acknowledges the inefficiency of this approach against the H7N6 strain. With no compensation mechanism in place for culled birds, producers shoulder the heavy burden of financial losses, including the costs associated with cleaning infected premises and restocking farms. The toll has been particularly harsh on smaller producers, with many forced out of business, and larger companies reporting record financial losses.

Recognizing the urgent need for a proactive strategy, the South African poultry industry is
advocating for the mandatory implementation of Avian Influenza vaccination. However, current regulations pose significant challenges, with stringent biosecurity standards and monitoring protocols hindering widespread vaccination efforts. Despite the industry’s willingness to comply, no company has yet met the rigorous requirements for vaccination, underscoring the urgency for practical solutions.

Drawing on international examples, such as France’s successful vaccination of 21 million ducks, the industry emphasizes the tangible benefits of widespread vaccination in curbing HPAI outbreaks. Urgent action is needed to align vaccination requirements with practical implementation, ensuring that companies of all sizes can effectively protect their flocks and prevent future disasters.

The South African poultry industry urges Minister Didiza to spearhead a process that addresses the critical issues hampering vaccination efforts. By establishing practical, science-based guidelines and resolving existing barriers, the government can safeguard food security, mitigate economic losses and protect against the environmental impact of mass bird culling.

In the face of looming threats, the South African poultry industry stands ready to collaborate with government stakeholders to implement effective vaccination strategies and prevent another devastating HPAI outbreak.

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