Izaak Breitenbach of the SA Poultry Association (SAPA) has estimated that last year’s bird flu outbreaks cost the industry R9.5 billion. Vaccination would help prevent mass cullings which are currently the main means of stopping the spread of the virus.
Vaccines are available for the H5 strain of bird flu, and Breitenbach expects a vaccine for the South African H7 strain to be approved this month. However, there are other problems ahead.
Breitenbach told the TV station ENCA that the biosecurity and monitoring requirements the government had published were an obstacle to vaccination.
“The standards are so high that very few companies will be able to comply with the regulations,” he said.
Chicken meat producers with 7.8 million broiler breeder birds might be able to get permits, but egg producers with 27 million commercial layer birds “will not make that grade and the birds will not be vaccinated”.
“That’s a concern for us. We would like to vaccinate all the chickens in the country to prevent another outbreak like the one we have just had,” he said.
His message to the government was that another disaster in the poultry industry would affect the country, poultry producers and consumers.
“We need to vaccinate as many flocks as possible.”
Breitenbach said there was no chicken supply shortage, despite last year’s culls of 9.5 million birds, which comprised 30% of the country’s broiler breeder birds and 20% of commercial layer birds.
The industry had imported 150 million hatching eggs, and the industry was producing at its normal rate of 21.5 million birds per week.