Avian flu causes poultry shortages

HARARE - Small-scale poultry producers are now feeling the heat of chicken shortages following the outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu — also known as avian influenza — a few weeks ago.

This comes amid indications that Zimbabwe’s largest poultry producer, Irvine’s, is yet to secure a licence from government to import hatching eggs from Europe to avert the chicken shortages.

Irvine’s was last month forced to cull 140 000 chickens at its farm in Harare due to the bird flu concerns.

The company has been working round the clock to secure hatching eggs for the production of day-old chicks.

The devastating avian influenza strain is believed to have emanated from migratory water fowl inhabiting a nearby dam.

Irvine’s chief executive David Irvine told the Daily News yesterday that the company was still waiting for regulatory approval — almost a month after applying for the import licence.

“We had officials from the World Organisation for Animal Health touring our premises on Tuesday and we held discussions with them on how we can import hatching eggs into the country,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s poultry industry is based mainly on traditional poultry farms and backyard holdings.

However, large commercial poultry farms have been emerging in recent times, and help to meet rising consumer chicken meat demands.

The smaller poultry producers, which get most of their chicken supplies from commercial producers such as Irvine’s, are struggling to secure day-old chicks.

In an earlier interview with the Daily News, the Irvine’s boss indicated that the country will experience temporary chicken shortages for a period of up to six weeks.

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