Monday, September 27, 2021

Bokaa flu outbreak: Poultry farmers fears for the worst

Botswana poultry farmers Association has indicated that the suspected pathogenic bird flu in Bokaa village in the Kgatleng district could regress industry gains.

In a statement released on August 30, the ministry of agricultural development and food security said that the movement of live poultry and their products (fresh meat, eggs and feathers) within and out of the Bokaa extension area is suspended with immediate effect as a result of the outbreak.

Movement of live poultry and their products transiting through Bokaa extension area is allowed only if: the consignment is accompanied by a valid livestock movement permit, transported in a sealed vehicle/container, and that the seals are only broken by veterinary officials at the destination.

Botswana poultry farmers Association chairman Ishmael Mosinyi highlighted that the industry had recently started to gain more local markets, adding that should the virus in Bokaa be confirmed positive, this could give way to poultry imports. 

“We are worried and keeping our fingers crossed because government has told us that investigations are still be conducted to ascertain whether their suspicions are correct or not,” said Mosinyi.

He further stated that poultry farmers in Bokaa village have started to feel the pinch of the current ban, adding that the poultry abattoir has already been closed until investigations have been concluded. 

“We do not know how far the virus might have spread if indeed there is one but we can only hope for the best in this situation,” added Mosinyi.

He also said the suspected outbreak comes at a time when more locals were venturing into the poultry sector.

“We have started to see more locals venturing into the sector, but then again we always emphasise that whoever has interest in this business they should be prepared to face all challenges, ‘said Mosinyi.

He also appreciated government efforts in their support for the industry, saying that the continued restrictions in the importation of poultry products has helped farmers. 

Poultry keepers have been encouraged to improve biosecurity measures in their facilities to deter wild birds including but not limited to: preventing access of wild birds to watering points, removing feed that is accessible to wild birds, deploying scarecrows to deter wild birds, as well as keeping poultry birds in bird-proof poultry houses/shelters and using footbaths with disinfectants when entering or exiting poultry houses.

This year, government took a decision to ban importation of poultry products from South Africa following official reports from South Africa, there has been confirmed cases of an outbreak of the highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza in commercial farms, compartments in several provinces..

Government has further cancelled all import permits issued for importation of live poultry and their byproducts with immediate effect. Poultry and their byproducts from other countries travelling through South Africa from other countries are allowed with a permit.

This year Botswana has on three times banned poultry imports from South Africa, as twice in April However during the month of April the import ban was revised to allow for imports from registered and approved Avian Influenza free compartment as long as accompanied with a permit. Furthermore cooked poultry meat without a permit was allowed and importation of fresh poultry products, originating from other countries and passing through South Africa in sealed containers were allowed with a permit.

Botswana`s poultry industry comprises of two production systems, namely the commercial sector which relies on exotic breeds of chicken, improved housing and nutrition. Then there is another termed “the village system” which uses indigenous Tswana chickens with low input and output system.

The Food and Agriculture Organization has confirmed the bird flu presence in SADC in countries such as Lesotho, South Africa as well as Zimbabwe with its subtypes H5N1, H5N8 and H5N6 affecting birds.

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