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Agriculture South Africa

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    Top poultry producer flags bird flu risk amid vaccine delays

    South Africa remains at risk of bird flu due to delays in the roll-out of a broad vaccination programme, the country's largest chicken producer, Astral Foods, said on Monday.
    Chicks of broiler chicken are seen at Gruisfontein farm in Lichtenburg in the North West province, South Africa, 19 January 2023. Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo
    Chicks of broiler chicken are seen at Gruisfontein farm in Lichtenburg in the North West province, South Africa, 19 January 2023. Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko/File Photo

    Last year, South Africa lost 9.5 million chickens, about a third of its national flock, during its worst outbreak of high-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), a bird flu with a high death rate that spreads rapidly through a flock.

    The government has published guidelines for HPAI vaccination, but the poultry industry says the stringent biosecurity standards and monitoring protocols required are hindering vaccination efforts.

    The South African Poultry Association says no company has met the requirements, despite eagerness to comply.

    "Bird flu remains a major risk to the local poultry industry, with slow progress being made towards approval for the vaccination of broiler breeding stock," Astral Foods said in a statement.

    South Africa's department of agriculture was not immediately available to comment.

    Astral Foods posted R355m ($19.56m) profit in the six months to 31 March, the first half of its financial year, up 472% from R62m in the same period last year, when it suffered badly from power cuts.

    The bird flu outbreak and the electricity crisis, blamed on South Africa's ageing coal-fired plants, cost Astral Foods R2bn, pushing the company to its first ever loss of R512m in the full year to 30 September 2023.

    The intensity of power cuts has eased during the past six months, a trend the government says is due to improved maintenance and a reduction in the number of breakdowns.

    South Africa has now recorded more than 50 consecutive days without rationing electricity, the longest period of uninterrupted power supply in nearly three years, according to the official statistics agency.

    ($1 = R18.1448)

    Source: Reuters

    Reuters, the news and media division of Thomson Reuters, is the world's largest multimedia news provider, reaching billions of people worldwide every day.

    Go to: https://www.reuters.com/

    About Nelson Banya

    Reporting by Nelson Banya; editing by Kevin Liffey
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