Avian Flu crisis: Poultry producers slam govt

HARARE - Poultry producers have slammed government over the Avian Influenza crisis, accusing it of not taking decisive action in curbing the deadly highly pathogenic virus which has decimated the country’s poultry population.

The producers, who are importing hatching eggs at a steep 40 percent duty, said government must formulate policies to protect the threatened industry.

The Avian Flu virus — also known as H5N8 — which was detected in May this year, has seen table eggs supply drastically dwindle and prices increasing.

Zimbabwe Poultry Association (ZPA) chairperson Solomon Zawe said government should waiver the 40 percent duty requirement.

“Today we have bird flu (and) we don’t have policies to curb that or to compensate producers who would have been affected. At this point in time, we have been importing hatching eggs from Europe to supplement our market,” he said.

“The region has no capacity to supply us with hatching eggs. We need to import hatching eggs all the way from Europe at 40 percent duty. It’s taking us years just to waive that 40 percent so that we import hatching eggs as a raw material. Bird flu we cannot talk much about it as industry, government should be making too much noise about it.”

With eggs and chicken having overtaken beef as the main protein source for many long-suffering Zimbabweans because of their affordable pricing, panicking authorities earlier announced that they would escalate their surveillance of the key poultry industry — warning that if the avian flu spreads to small-scale chicken producers, it would become increasingly difficult to control the situation.

While Zimbabwe’s largest eggs producer, Irvine’s, whose chicken farm was ravaged by Avian Flu outbreak, did not give this paper details on how the virus has affected their produce, reports suggest the company was seeking permits to import eggs to avert the crisis.

Figures from the Poultry Association of Zimbabwe shows that total egg production in the first quarter of 2017 is estimated to have declined to 3,6 million dozen from 4,7 million dozen in the same period in 2016, largely due to disinvestment by small-scale producers in table egg production.

The department of Livestock and Veterinary Services last week said it was working around the clock to contain the highly-pathogenic virus.

“Every effort is being made to prevent infection from escaping the establishment.  The disease had initially been detected and confirmed on May 24, 2017 and the situation had stabilised following complete depopulation of affected poultry sites by June 1, 2017,” it said.

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