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By Cornelia Le Roux

Digital Deputy News Editor


Bird flu latest: Retailers in a flap as cracks deepen in egg, poultry supply

Cape Town and Johannesburg shoppers are reportedly already facing a shrinking supply on egg shelves.


Major retailers are literally treading on eggshells to secure egg and poultry meat supply on their shelves as South Africa battles the country’s worst ever bird flu outbreak.

Top producers in the poultry industry sector, such as Astral Foods and Quantum Foods, have issued a warning in the media of imminent egg and meat shortages due to the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI/bird flu).

‘Worst bird flu outbreak’

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The South African poultry industry has been hit hard by what has been considered the country’s ‘worst ever’ bird flu outbreak. Stock image for illustration: iStock

 The first bird flu cases were reported in April at commercial farms in the country.

“The bird flu outbreak is the worst that South Africa has witnessed,” Astral Foods revealed in a trading update provided earlier this month.

“It has already caused short supplies of table eggs into the market, and it is expected that the supply of poultry meat into the value chain could be affected negatively in the coming months,” the producer said.

According to the latest figures, at least 550 000 chickens have been slaughtered and even more eggs destroyed in the Western Cape.

JSE-listed producer of Nulaid Eggs, Quantum Foods, was already forced to cull at least 420 000 chickens in its attempt to curb the spread of the disease in April.

“I would say we can probably see a 10% to 15% increase in egg prices in the Western Cape,” head of information and marketing at FNB Agribusiness Dawie Maree told Moneyweb.

ALSO READ: 500 000 chickens culled in latest WC bird flu outbreak

Cape Town and Joburg shoppers already hit by egg shortages

News24, however, reported that some shoppers in Cape Town and Johannesburg claim to have already encountered egg shortages on the shelves of certain retailers.

According to the publication, a Johannesburg shopper complained of the week-long absence of their preferred brand of eggs at Checkers, while another said it noticed empty egg shelves during a shopping trip to a Woolworths store.

Major retailers provide update on impact of bird flu outbreak:

Shoprite

Shoprite, which owns Checkers, confirmed to News24 that the bird flu outbreak has impacted its supply of both eggs and poultry meat.

“We are working closely with suppliers securing as much stock as possible and utilising our supply chain to transport to regions experiencing shortages,” it said.

Woolworths

Woolworths confirmed that it had been “experiencing significant challenges with our supply due to avian flu”, adding that customers “may start to notice empty shelves – particularly in the Gauteng region”.

The retailer, which prides itself on its offering of free-range table eggs, said its free-range hens in Gauteng, Free State and KwaZulu-Natal are now being kept indoors as a precautionary measure until the risk of infection has passed.

“Avian flu can spread in various ways. Veterinary experts have advised our farmers to keep our free-range hens indoors temporarily to protect their health and welfare, which they have done.”

Food Lover’s Market

Food Lover’s Market is foreseeing a “high stock shortage of eggs” on its shelves in the coming months.

It said that until now it had been able to manage demand as its egg supplier in the Western Cape had a number of farms.

“Unfortunately, most of the farms [of its Western Cape egg supplier] have now been affected, which affects us in terms of stock,” the retail chain told News24.

It added that two of its five suppliers in the inland region, including areas such as Gauteng, had “unfortunately closed their doors”, with another operating at minimum capacity.  

Spar

Spar said its egg supply chain has been affected by the devastating bird flu outbreak, but that it is working closely with existing suppliers to address the issue.

It added that it is also looking into the possibility of importing eggs from various Southern African countries.

Government to import fertile eggs, fast-track vaccination

The Citizen reported that the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development is facilitating the import of fertile eggs for the broiler industry.

The department’s spokesperson, Reggie Ngcobo, said it would also consider importing table eggs if requested.

According to Ngcobo, the department is currently working on fast-tracking the registration process of a vaccine.

“With regards to vaccination, the department met with vaccine registration regulators and the agreement reached is that the registration of vaccine will be fast-tracked, but the safety, efficacy and quality will not be compromised.”

NOW READ: Dark days and empty plates as SA food insecurity takes wing

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