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SAOBC/DAFF: Big gap, but progress

1st Oct 2012 , S&V African Leather

SA Ostrich industry, SA government still far apart on dealing with Avian Influenza

Piet Kleyn, acting CEO of the SA Ostrich Business Chamber, said the most recent meeting between an SAOBC delegation and DAFF, on September 5, illustrated that there was still a significant gap between them, but that there had been progress.

We didn’t have high expectations of our meeting with DAFF, but I think that we’re moving in the right direction. However, it will not be possible to export meat in the immediate future.

We discussed 3 matters:

1. The export of raw meat: We pressed DAFF to assist areas free of the virus – the Northern Cape, Free State and Limpopo, and isolated areas of the Eastern Cape around Burgersdorp – to export raw meat to the EU. DAFF countered there are no border controls between those areas and affected areas, but that it is prepared to look at compartmentalisation, even though the EU has never approved compartmentalisation.

It’s something we’d have to set up, and I suspect it would be difficult. DAFF thinks it would take 6 to 9 months to negotiate with the EU. A sub-committee made up of 2 producers and several specialists from DAFF was established to draft regulations.

2. VPN04 bio-security registration: The standpoint of DAFF is that AI outbreaks are mainly caused by lapses in bio-security, such as the movement of infected birds between farms, and that control of the disease is in the industry’s hands.

DAFF now requires that all ostrich breeders, chick raisers and feedlots apply for and comply with a set of bio-security rules collectively known as VPN04, a local document based on the earlier ‘passport’ and circulated to the industry in July, although the process started in the Western Cape before that. It’s a mountain to climb. Movement restrictions were imposed on July 31. We are still negotiating that some movement will be allowed.

Despite the restrictions that were already in place, incidences of AI antibodies have continued to surface, and the last 3 positive tests for highly pathogenic H5N2 have been on ‘closed units’ – farms where the affected birds were hatched and raised.

While there have been instances where exposure to the virus was from birds that had been moved, we believe the evidence now is that most incidences are caused by the disease entering farms from the wild, and specifically from waterfowl, which appear to be the reservoir of the disease.

We also believe the disease has always been here from time to time, and will be present in farmed ostriches occasionally because it is impossible to farm with ostriches in houses. In our view, the only reason it now seems to be more prevalent is because of the much more rigorous, regular and widespread testing and because of the virus load in the environment.

The tests show up antibodies, not the disease itself. There are not incidences of mass mortality among our ostriches caused by AI.

3. Appropriate responses to AI: The slaughter out process in cases where birds test positive for antibodies – the standard response so far – isn’t appropriate. The alternatives are to quarantine affected farms, and vaccination, for which a vaccine will have to be developed.

Research is also needed on the effect of AI on ostriches. A major concern relating to AI has been the possible spread of AI from ostriches to poultry. A technical committee was established to research the effects of AI. Members include the KKI’s Dr. Adriaan Olivier and a representative of the SA Poultry Association (SAPA).

SAPA has been very involved in this process, and we must protect their birds. The establishment of the technical committee was, for me, a very good outcome. – [Tel: +27 (0)44 272 3336, email: ceo@saobc.co.za]




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