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Bird Flu has already wiped out more than 15% of South Africa's layer hens, with the prospect of hefty prices increases due to the resultant shortage of table eggs, the South African Poultry Association (SAPA) said.

“This includes almost four million layers, 360 000 broiler breeders and just over 31 000 layer breeders,” says Dr Charlotte Nkuna, interim SAPA CEO. 

The layer flock stood at about 24 million before the outbreak of bird flu. Nkuna added that more than 23 commercial farms have already been affected.

The shortage of table eggs could lift prices by between 15% and 20%. Nkuna added that the recovery depends on how quickly the chicken farmers are willing to risk repopulating. “We anticipate that it will take an average of six months for the farms to be repopulated, some may be sooner and others preferring to wait a bit longer. This also depends on the available funds to be able to buy the replacement stocks,” she added.

Some of the farmers are considering importing table eggs. However, the cost of air transport makes it somewhat uneconomical. “And, if the cheaper option of sea freight is considered, the time it takes to transport by sea will make it very difficult to get the eggs to South Africa within the prescribed shelf life,” adds Nkuna.

Data from SAPA shows that more poultry products are consumed every year than all the other animal protein sources combined. 

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