Vaccination another Agriculture priority

South Africa’s stalled bird flu vaccination programme is going to be another priority for Minister Steenhuisen.

The poultry industry says widespread vaccinations are urgently needed to avert another bird flu disaster such as the one that hit the country last year. However, the Department of Agriculture has set such onerous conditions that companies must meet before vaccinations are permitted, that the industry believes few poultry companies will qualify.

Discussions have started in an attempt to resolve the impasse, but no solutions have yet been announced.

The problem was illustrated by newly listed Rainbow Chicken. According to The Poultry Site, CEO Marthinus Stander told Reuters that Rainbow had obtained approval to use vaccines against avian flu “but the rules and protocols to be able to vaccinate are not affordable or practical”.

If the rules make vaccinations unaffordable for South Africa’s second largest poultry producer, then the costs of biosecurity arrangements and monitoring that the government is demanding will put vaccination beyond the reach of most chicken farmers. This includes the thousands of small-scale farmers for whom a bird flu outbreak is catastrophic.

Winter is here and not one chicken has been vaccinated against bird flu. The issue is urgent.

Clearly, poultry industry issues are going to require a lot of Minister Steenhuisen’s time.