South African government bans German poultry to avoid the epidemic

Xolile Bhengu

Xolile Bhengu

The South African agriculture department said it had put an indefinite ban on all poultry trade from Germany after a report that the country had been hit by a bird flu epidemic.

Spokesman for the agriculture department Priscilla Sehoole said although Germany was one of the major traders of poultry with this country, the ban would not lead to a shortage of chicken supply.

"There will be enough poultry products available on the market. Any products en route to South Africa will be quarantined," she said.

The move came several days after German authorities discovered a pet goose in a home for mentally handicapped people that tested positive for H5N1 avian influenza.

The German government placed the Thuringen farm and the surrounding area under quarantine and destroyed more than 1000 domestic birds within a 3km radius of the outbreak to contain the disease.

South African Poultry Association chief executive officer Kevin Lovel said if the bird flu had affected the top three foreign suppliers to South Africa, such as Brazil, Canada and Argentina, then the picture would have been gloomier.

He said if any of these countries were hit, then at least 18 months would have been needed to recoup supply.

Lovell added: "Realistically it takes a while to increase production.

"It cannot be done at a drop of a hat."

The bird flu strain is said to have killed nearly 200 people worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation.

Some 13 European Union nations confirmed cases of bird flu last year. - Sapa