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RCL Foods culls 410,000 chickens amid bird flu outbreak

The avian flu outbreak has also affected the supply of eggs. Stock photo.
The avian flu outbreak has also affected the supply of eggs. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Chayakornlot

RCL Foods said on Thursday its poultry unit Rainbow has culled 410,000 chickens due to the country's worst outbreak of avian flu, heightening fears of chicken meat and egg shortages.

The outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), a bird flu which spreads rapidly in an infected flock, causing a high death rate, has already affected table egg supplies in the country and producers have warned of chicken meat shortages in the coming weeks.

Rainbow is one of South Africa's largest chicken producers, supplying retailers and fast-food businesses.

“The outbreak has moved at a rapid pace and the situation is constantly evolving. To date, an estimated 410,000 birds have been culled, which has resulted in an estimated financial impact of R115m,” RCL Foods said.

The company added that it was taking steps to avert supply disruptions, but “there is tension in the supply chain”.

On Wednesday, Namibia suspended poultry imports from South Africa, citing the outbreak. However, South Africa only exports between 1% and 2% of its production, according to the country's poultry producers' association.

Last week RCL's peers, including the country's largest integrated poultry processor, Astral Foods, and Quantum Foods said the outbreak was ravaging a sector already burdened by South Africa's electricity crisis and rising costs.


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