Biosecurity remains one of the greatest challenges that South African agriculture is faced with, which is threatening food security and the creation of more jobs. This was highlighted by the recent avian influenza outbreak that hit the poultry industry which hit Mzansi hard in 2023.
Chief executive officer of the South African Poultry Association, Dr Abongile Balarane has said without compensation or financial assistance to producers who have been impacted by the outbreak, a lot was at stake such as transformation, jobs, food security and the egg master plan.
It’s not free for all
Balarane said South Africa will take up to 17 months to recover the loss of production, mainly because poultry remains one of the biggest commodities in the country.
“From our side, we are not against the imports that come through. It’s the same as what we saw in 2017 when we had the first outbreak; cheap eggs of poor quality came through from Brazil and were dumped all over South Africa.
“It took us some time to convince consumers to consume eggs again and other products. The regulations are clear, everyone can import to South Africa but one needs to comply with the regulations first,” he said.
Balarane said Swaziland was the only country that South Africa was importing eggs from because the eggs in that part of the region were ticking all the boxes.
Meanwhile, a poultry farmer in Warrenton in the Northern Cape, Nqobile Khumalo said they experienced losses, especially towards the festive season.
“Our sales went down because we had to stop our operations during the peak of the outbreak and that was a period where most of our customers were placing orders for the festive season. But because we did not know the extent of the problem, we had to stop for a while.
“We have not recovered. Yes, we have resumed our operations but the recovery will take time. From our side, we have vaccinated our chickens and made sure the bio-security compliance was in order. However, the knock-on effect of closing for a while is still being felt,” she said.
Kobedi Pilane chief executive officer of African Poultry Producers said the impact of the outbreak was hitting the farmers hard because they were simply price takers amid a bio-security challenge that needed all stakeholders to come up with an amicable plan for all.
Biosecurity measures take centre stage
“As African Poultry Producers, we acknowledge the impact of this outbreak on the consumers and have encouraged our farmers to take appropriate measures including increased biosecurity measures.
“The farmers are dealing with the increased risk of outbreak and the costs of putting more biosecurity measures in place, as well as increased production costs of feedstock, diesel fuel costs and electricity costs,” he said.
According to Pilane, this burden was what most African Poultry Producers members were facing daily and barely surviving to provide poultry meat and eggs and make a living out of their proceeds.
“We will be sharing this situation with the government to find ways to assist our farmers who are mostly emerging smallholder producers,” he said.
Pilane said they have also noted some opportunistic predatory practices by some retailers and their intermediaries who have doubled the cost of eggs and insisted on maintaining their purchasing prices from the farmers.
Consumers feel the pinch
He said that was something that needed relevant authorities to intervene with a matter of urgency to save the consumer from being ripped off.
A consumer from Kokstad in KwaZulu-Natal, Brenda Phetlhe said during the festive holidays she had to cut down on her budget for poultry products because they were expensive.
“Although I had my kids and family members coming through for holidays, I just could not spend so much money on poultry products. I did end up buying eggs but it was less than normal because of the price that has gone up in the past weeks. It is currently unsustainable to keep eggs on the grocery list,” she said.
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