South Africa Faces Bird Flu Threat Amid Delays in Vaccination Roll-Out

South Africa Faces Bird Flu Threat Amid Delays in Vaccination Roll-Out

South Africa remains at risk of bird flu due to delays in implementing a comprehensive vaccination program, according to the country’s largest chicken producer, Astral Foods.

Last year, the nation experienced its worst outbreak of high-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), a highly lethal bird flu that spreads rapidly through flocks, resulting in the loss of 9.5 million chickens, about a third of its national flock.

The government has published guidelines for HPAI vaccination, but the poultry industry indicates that stringent biosecurity standards and monitoring protocols are hindering vaccination efforts. The South African Poultry Association notes that no company has yet met these requirements, despite the industry’s 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 stated.

The South African Department of Agriculture was not immediately available for comment.

Astral Foods reported a profit of 355 million rand ($19.56 million) for the six months ending March 31, a 472% increase from 62 million rand in the same period last year, when it was significantly affected by power cuts. The bird flu outbreak and the electricity crisis, attributed to South Africa’s aging coal-fired plants, cost Astral Foods 2 billion rand, leading to the company’s first-ever loss of 512 million rand for the full year ending September 30, 2023.

The intensity of power cuts has eased over the past six months, a trend the government attributes to improved maintenance and a reduction in the number of breakdowns. South Africa has now recorded more than 50 consecutive days without electricity rationing, marking the longest period of uninterrupted power supply in nearly three years, according to official statistics.

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