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Bird flu could impact negatively on economy

Bird flu could impact negatively on economy

The recent outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu strain H5N8) could have a negative impact on the economy, analysts are warning.

Dawie Maree, head of information and marketing for agriculture at FNB Business, told Fin24 that the industry could face around 2 500 job losses if the current ban continues beyond three to four months and have a knock-on effect on associated industries, such as the grain industry which provides feed to the poultry industry.

"The ban is a major blow to the local industry which has been grappling a downturn over the last two years," Maree explained.

"The grain industry would also most likely take a knock as they provide feed to the poultry industry," he said.

Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia recently banned trade in poultry products from South Africa as a result of the bird flu outbreak. These countries account for a significant number of broiler exports.

Maree said that there may also be an impact on consumer behaviour, as cautious consumers can have an effect on the demand for poultry products, although he did say that food safety standards in the country are secure.

"Consumers don’t have to be concerned about poultry they are consuming from the shelf," Maree said.

Chief executive officer of the SA Poultry Association Kevin Lovell advised taking a longer time to assess the impact the outbreak has had on the economy, saying that things could return to normal within six months if no further outbreaks occur.

"The bans took effect in the middle of the year and some bans have been lifted for those exporting producers who have registered compartments (a disease management measure)," Lovell said.

"Those export products will also now be sold on the local market so depending on local supply and demand dynamics the effect could be less or more."

Lovell said that a worse case scenario would be the flu spreading wider, resulting in a major supply problem.

"To give context to our four outbreaks, Europe had more than a thousand outbreaks this last season. We are nowhere near the impact level experienced in Europe," he said.

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has assured that surveillance of wild birds, commercial chickens and backyard chickens has been increased and that everything is being done to curb the outbreak.

"The necessary measures have been taken to contain and eliminate the disease as efficiently as possible on both farms," the department said in a statement.

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