Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Avian influenza: Govt on high alert

Avian influenza: Govt on high alert


Elita Chikwati Senior Agriculture Reporter
Government is on high alert following an outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in South Africa recently.
Zimbabwe was hit by avian influenza between May and August last year and was declared free from the disease in December.
Ministry of Lands, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement’s Veterinary Services director Dr Josphat Nyika yesterday said that South Africa had notified the ministry about two outbreaks of avian influenza in the North West Province.

“The outbreak is in wild birds. In Zimbabwe we have reason to worry because these birds are migratory,” he said.
Dr Nyika advised farmers and veterinary staff to be vigilant and ensure tighter biosecurity on farms to avoid the spread of the disease.

“We are carrying out awareness campaigns in the border areas.
“Zimbabwe experienced the outbreak at Lanark Farm last year and we declared the country free from avian influenza in December 2017.

“However, we are carrying out surveillance on all poultry and poultry markets. Since South Africa reported the outbreak last year, Zimbabwe suspended imports of poultry and poultry products from that country. The suspension remains in force as they have an active infection,” he said.

Dr Nyika urged the public to cooperate with veterinary import controls to limit the introduction of avian influenza from other territories.

Zimbabwe and South Africa last year lost over one million chickens to avian influenza, threatening the livelihood and food security status of millions of families.

Zimbabwe culled around 215 000 birds. This affected the availability of table eggs and poultry products in the region.
The influenza came at a time when the region was struggling to recover from the El Niño-induced food shortages (2015-2016 season) further worsened by the emergence of other pests such as the fall armyworm, which devastated crops last year.
In Southern Africa, the flu was reported in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

In South Africa and Zimbabwe, the disease was identified on large commercial farms where systems to monitor outbreaks were readily in place compared to smallholder and backyard producers.

The spectre of bird flu outbreaks had been looming across the region since the beginning of 2017, when Uganda reported an outbreak in January 2017, prompting SADC member states to develop the capacity of surveillance, detection, prevention and a rapid response to HPAI. According to the Zimbabwe Poultry Association, following the avian influenza-induced depopulation, average monthly stocks of broiler breeder chick retentions, growing and in-lay birds dropped between October and December last year.

The average breeder stockholdings were lower than the same period in 2016 and the lowest since 2013. However, breeders in-lay had started to recover from a low of 241 611 in June to 310 609 in December last year.
Local production of hatching eggs declined by 35 percentage from a peak of 7,1 million in May to 4,6 million in July and had recovered to 7,4 million by December last year.


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