Avian flu outbreak expected to drive up egg, chicken prices

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South Africans could soon exprience a shortage or even a spike in the prices of eggs and chicken. This as the current avian influenza that has seen millions of chickens culled starting to impact the supply of these products.

The South African Poultry Association says the outbreak that started in the Western Cape in May this year has spread to Gauteng, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, and some parts of the Free State Province.

The Poultry Association says the avian flu strain that is dominant in South Africa is the H7N6.  The organisation says about 30% of the egg industry has been affected by this.

Over 5 million chickens have been culled since the outbreak, but there are about 8 million suspected cases.
This will likely impact the supply of chicken and eggs in the coming months.

General Manager at SA Poultry Association – Egg Division, Dr Abongile Balarane says the industry is currently under severe strain, whilst it also has to juggle other things like a hike in fuel prices, high electricity prices, load shedding and the avian flu outbreak.

“Definitely, what is likely to happen in the short term is that from those affected farms or the production that has been lost, we’ll start to see a bit of strain on the supply side of eggs through the market, I am sure you might have seen some of the big retailers have already put up notices there would be limited supply. So eggs are not available on shelves that is likely to happen in the short term until we have restocked the production we have lost which will probably take us some time. Because there is also finances. The farmers, as you know, have already been hit by the high feed prices, fuel and the electricity crisis, so there is more pressure on the producers at the moment.”

Meanwhile, consumers can expect to pay more for eggs and chicken, due to the current supply and demand constraints.

“We estimate that roughly around close to 30% of the egg industry has has been affected by this having influenza to date. The number of birds that have been covered, they’re sitting at above. 55 million but the suspected cases are closely to 8 million. You know above 8 million. So definitely what is likely to happen in the short term is that from those affected, you know, farms or the production that has been lost, we will start to see you know, a bit of a strain in the in the supply side of eggs to the market.” 

Dr Balarane says with the flu already detected earlier this year, the poultry industry put some preventative measures in place to ensure the spread is curbed. However, the number of chickens continue to grow as the spread moves across the country.

“As early as in March, farmers were, you know, strengthening their bio security measures, meaning movement of people between farms, the movement of vehicles, the trucks that deliver feed have been slightly limited or controlled ever since, from April. So that’s the one main, you know, part of during we kept the spread of this virus, have an above. We have, we’re hoping that as a candle will start to see vaccines, you know for this having influenza there are talks between the industry and government to look into the possibility of vaccinating as a long term solution.” 

SA Poultry says with the busiest season of joyous festivities, just more than two months, away South Africans could celebrate Christmas without a scrambled, boiled, poached or fried eggs and no chicken on the coals. -Additional reporting by Glorious Sefako-Musi