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Poultry body calls for appropriate support policies to help sector recover from avian flu

2nd November 2023

By: Rebecca Campbell

Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor

     

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The South African Poultry Association (Sapa) has urged government to put in place policies that will help especially small-scale poultry farmers to recover from the recent outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Sapa has also reported that the sector now seems to be recovering from HPAI, as a result of swift action by the industry, including the imposition of strong biosecurity protocols and monitoring programmes. So far, 8.5-million chickens have been culled (of which some 6-million were egg layers and more than 2.5-million were broiler breeder chickens).

Farmers were, however, finding it difficult to recover their costs, particularly during this recovery process. Many livelihoods were at risk. “A change in [government] policy is needed to support impacted producers, and such a cost recovery mechanism will serve well to keep consumer prices low and our farmers afloat,” urged Sapa Broiler Organisation GM Izaak Breitenbach.

He acknowledged that government was indeed looking at ways to compensate farmers affected by the HPAI outbreak. But he expressed concern about the form such compensation would take. “Creating an emergency fund for farmers to recover costs and repopulate their flocks is much more beneficial to local consumers, producers, and the South African economy, than returning the taxes paid on a small portion of imports that will only arrive in the New Year,” he affirmed.

He specifically criticised the idea of a blanket rebate on chicken imports. Although fair competition was welcomed, such a rebate would favour foreign producers and would give importers a “generous” price advantage over South African producers.

“If enacted, the proposed rebate will undo the trade protection previously deemed necessary to support local poultry producers, in line with the Master Plan,” he warned. “South African poultry farmers simply can’t compete with [HPAI] outbreaks, the scourge of loadshedding (with outages wreaking havoc on the birds, the farming houses and equipment), the critical lack of service delivery and access to fresh water, collapsing infrastructure, and now ceding market share to dumped or subsidised imports.”

Because of the actions taken by the industry to deal with, and counter the effects of, HPAI, Sapa now expects any short-term chicken supply shortages willbe “minimal”, including over the upcoming festive season. “Speculation about huge shortages of chicken this year and into 2024 is therefore not based on the facts,” he assured.

Edited by Creamer Media Reporter

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