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By Kyle Zeeman

Digital News Editor

Chicken shortage to get worse from next month, could last for 12-18 months

Producer believes there will be chicken shortages of about 50-million kilograms per month for 12 months.

The impact of Bird Flu is set to worsen next month, ahead of a bleak Christmas and 2024.

This is the prediction of George Southey, General Manager of Merlog Foods.

About 10-million chickens have become infected and more than 7-million have died, as two deadly virus strains grip SA’s poultry sector. It has affected about a third of all production in the country, leading to egg shortages and surging prices.

Southey told 702 the situation was likely to get worse from November for those who rely on chicken for meat.

ALSO READ: Didiza grants thousands of permits for chicken, egg imports to ensure supplies for Christmas

“The ‘life cycle’ of production of broiler chickens is a little different to the table egg. So the actual impact on consumers hasn’t yet been felt. There is still suitable stock of chicken in the system. The problem is the next cycle of growing chickens will start impacting from, probably, around the middle of November.

Supply disruptions are likely to run for at least 12 to 18 months.

“It takes between 18 and 22 months to bring new production systems into the market. We believe from probably December through at least 12 months there will be approximately 50-million kilograms short per month, unless there are some severe interventions. If there are further infections in the system, those shortages could increase further.”


Government has been scrambling to provide solutions, with Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza last week granting thousands of permits for the importation of eggs and chicken meat.

“Minister Didiza has decided to allow the importation of table and fertilised eggs and poultry meat to ensure sufficient stock is available on time for the Christmas holiday season,” said spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo.

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

As egg prices sore, retailers have rationed the amount of eggs available to buy.

“Due to the shortage caused by the Avian Flu, we need to prioritise the use of availability that meet our standards of food safety and quality for Woolies products made with eggs. As a temporary measure, we therefore have to limit whole egg purchases to 1 pack of six per customer,” Woolworths announced earlier this month.

Pick n Pay said it was planning to limit the amount customers could buy to one or two packs.

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