On Thursday, September 28th, Namibia took a decisive step to suspend imports of live poultry and poultry products from neighboring South Africa following a surge in highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) cases. This immediate suspension comes in the wake of what Namibia’s agriculture ministry described as an “alarming” increase in the HPAI cases, which has raised significant health concerns.
South Africa, one of the continent’s major poultry producers, first reported bird flu cases in commercial farms in April. The proximity between the two nations made South Africa a “preferred supplier” of chicken to Namibia. However, with this suspension, Namibia will have to rely more on its other poultry import sources from Europe and South America, as mentioned by Agriculture Ministry spokesman Jona Musheko.
The avian flu outbreak has disrupted the poultry trade and sent shockwaves through the South African poultry industry. Just last week, Quantum Foods revealed that it had lost almost two million chickens, valued at more than 100 million rand ($5.2 million), due to the disease this year. The South African Poultry Association (SAPA) disclosed that the nation is grappling with two different strains of the virus, the notorious H5N1 and a newly identified strain, H7N6.
While bird flu typically does not infect humans, the H5N1 strain is increasingly infecting mammals worldwide, escalating fears of potential transmission to humans. The virus, which was previously confined to seasonal outbreaks, has been manifesting year-round since 2021, leading to what experts are calling the largest outbreak ever seen. SAPA noted that the number of avian flu cases in South Africa this year surpassed any year since the first outbreaks were reported in commercial farms in 2017.
This suspension underscores the broader implications of the avian flu outbreak, not just on poultry trade but on regional economic dynamics and public health. It also highlights the interconnectedness of the African poultry market and the ripple effects an outbreak in one nation can have on its neighbors. The move by Namibia reflects a proactive approach to safeguarding its populace and poultry industry from the menacing avian flu, showcasing a prudent response to public health threats.