Poultry ban bites farmers

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Bereng Mpaki

THE ongoing ban on the importation of poultry products is killing the industry, farmers have said.

Farmers told the Lesotho Times this week that their businesses have been negatively impacted since the government imposed a partial ban of chicken imports to prevent the spread of the avian flu from South Africa in April this year.

Poultry and products from Gauteng, Free State, KwaZulu Natal, and the North West provinces were banned after the provinces recorded cases of the avian flu.

The government also said chicken import permits would now only be issued by the Department of Livestock Services in Maseru only.

It also revoked all permits issued before 14 April 2021. The said permits were authorising the importation of poultry and poultry products from the affected provinces.

While the ban has certainly helped to contain the outbreak, which is ravaging most South African provinces, it is causing stock shortages in the market.

Lesotho poultry farmers rely on the South African market for day-old chicks, fertilised eggs and point-of-lay chickens. Many suppliers are experiencing stock shortages which are now being felt by the Lesotho market. This has driven upwards prices of products like eggs and other chicken products.

Mohale’s Hoek farmer, Rethabile Makhalema, who imports about 20 000 chicks monthly has failed to import chicks since the ban was imposed.

“I don’t have any point-of-lay stock now because I sold my last consignment this month,” Mr Makhalema said.

“I have been unable to import chicks since the ban was imposed. The business has terribly nosedived and I am barely surviving.”

He called on the government to review the ban and make it more flexible to rescue businesses.

“The ban is indiscriminate because authorities don’t consider whether or not the supplier (hatchery) has been declared free of the disease or not. As long as the supplier is from an area that has recorded cases of the disease, they do not give you an import permit. I think this is unfair.

“The government wants our suppliers to produce approval from a state vet to show they are free from the disease before they can give us permits, yet there is a list of companies which are free from the disease that South Africa issues monthly.”

‘Mareisisi Matala, from Maseru will run out of her inventory of chickens in the next two weeks if she does not import chicks soon.

On his part, director of veterinary services in the Department of Livestock Services Relebohile Mahloane said they were engaging South Africa authorities to get the list of facilities which have been certified to be free from the disease.

“We have not imposed a blanket ban on poultry imports from all areas of South Africa but certain parts only. This unfortunately means farmers have a smaller margin to manoeuvre than before the ban.

“We are now treating farmers requests on a case by case analysis by assessing the area from which the supplier comes from, their proximity to the affected areas among other things.

“We are working with South African authorities to provide us with their monthly list of companies that are declared free from the disease. We must carefully handle the issue as there are farms who have been cleared of the disease only for their birds to be found having it,” Dr Mahloane said.

Since the ban, cases of the disease have been recorded only in two Maseru and Leribe farms. The farms have since been cleared after being quarantined while the birds have been disposed of.

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