Fewer than 5 cases of bird flu in November, but price of eggs could still go up

Prices of eggs may go up as the industry recovers from avian flu.

The SA Poultry Association (Sapa) says the peak of the avian flu pandemic appears to have passed, but its effects will be long felt.

More than 50 outbreaks of two strains of avian flu (HPAI H7 and 10 HPAI H5) have so far been reported, with the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development calculating the loss of around 1.4 million chickens by 21 September. By early October, around 2.7 million chickens had been culled.

Spokesperson Abongile Balarane told The Citizen there have been fewer than five cases of the avian flu in November, a dramatic drop compared to the last three months. 

He said the association expects fewer cases as hotter weather continues.

“We are progressing fairly well with discussions around the vaccine, which is one of the strategies we want to implement as a long-term solution.”

He said about 30 percent of the industry remains affected by the outbreak, and it will take around 18 months to recover. In that time, the price of eggs will likely increase.

READ ALSO: SA stores could get more eggs on shelves as industry turns to liquid and powder forms

“While we are still building our flocks the prices of eggs will slightly increase. We are rebuilding our production back to 27 million hens. In 2024, we expect that to be in a region of 17 to 18 million because of this outbreak.”

Amid egg shortages caused by the outbreak, Sapa announced table eggs were being diverted from “industrial” customers and bakeries to store shelves. Instead, powdered eggs would be imported for use by industrial customers. This will remain in place ahead of the festive season.

READ ALSO: Bird flu outbreak: Govt contemplates rebate on chicken import duties

Eggs for Christmas

Balarane said consumers may have eggs on the table for Christmas, after customers ditched them when they got too expensive.

With the peak in prices now passed, Balarane believes South Africans will likely find more and slightly cheaper eggs as the year draws to a close.

“Toward the festive season we will see some stores running some promotions on eggs,” he predicted.

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