Avian flu: DA calls on Minister Didiza to strengthen South Africa’s biosecurity

Please find an attached soundbite by Noko Masipa MP

As the continued outbreak of avian flu on poultry farms across the country shows no sign of a slowdown, the DA calls on Minister Thoko Didiza to prioritise biosecurity. This is to curtail the spread of avian flu to further poultry farms.

Thus far, the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) reported the outbreak on four farms in Gauteng and one in the North West province. At the end of last week, another outbreak was reported in the Western Cape on a farm in Worcester.

According to reports from Asia and Europe, these new viruses are more lethal to poultry birds and are spread easily by wild birds. Countries like Poland started reporting the outbreak as far back as January and have lost over 5 million birds to date. Asia and Europe have been experiencing the H5Nx High Pathogenicity Avian Influenza (HPAI) with the genetic origins identified as H5N1 HPAI that originated from China in 1996. These H5N1 virus outbreaks have been widely reported and it was just a matter of time that it would reach the Southern Hemisphere.

The DA has long been calling for improved biosecurity to ensure minimal adverse diseases impact on farms post the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in Limpopo. However, as alarm bells went off internationally, the DALRRD failed to take the necessary surveillance measures to protect our vulnerable farms from animal diseases.

The Minister of Finance, Tito Mboweni, has allocated R495 million towards biosecurity in 2021. Minister Didiza must now prioritise adequate measures to ensure that South Africa’s biosecurity system is resourced so that it can provide an appropriate level of protection to the poultry industry. This should include:

  • Research on H5N1 and providing mitigation strategies;
  • Monitoring measures of small interface between the wild aquatic birds and commercial poultry birds;
  • Continuous proactive monitoring of both wild birds and animal diseases which can provide an early warning sign; and
  • The interaction between poultry birds and wild waterfowl or any other migratory birds.

We call the Minister to ensure budgets are utilized effectively by her department to conduct research, conduct inspections on farms and wetlands areas, and provide a constant alert to farmers about potential diseases. A responsible government would take care that these measures and shall not wait for the outbreak of diseases to happen.

Well before the outbreak of the H5N1, the DA asked Minister Didiza to provide an outline of prevailing animal diseases in all provinces and the mitigation thereof. We are yet to receive an answer.

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