South Africa: Egg Rationing Begins as Avian Flu Wreaks Havoc on Poultry Sector

Harare — As South Africa’s worst-ever avian influenza outbreak continues to spread, Woolworths and Pick n Pay are restricting eggs to consumers in an effort to assure a steady supply, News24 reports. Shoprite reportedly said that it had no such plans.

“Due to the shortage of eggs caused by the avian flu, we need to prioritise the use of available whole eggs that meet our standards of food safety and quality for Woolies products made with eggs. As a temporary measure, we therefore have to limit whole egg purchases to 1 pack of 6 eggs per customer. We are working with our farmers to ensure regular supply returns as soon as possible,” Woolworths said in a statement.

A six-egg limit per person is in effect up until further notice, unless the store still stocks (rapidly running out) packs of 18 or 36 eggs, according to BusinessLive.

According to industry sources, South Africans will pay much more for chicken and eggs as farmers fight the worst avian influenza outbreak since 2017. Millions of fertilized eggs may be imported into South Africa to help with the country’s current broiler chicken shortfall, and the industry anticipates a large increase in chicken imports in the months running up to December.

While the more dangerous H7 outbreaks are primarily in Limpopo, the North West, the Free State, and Mpumalanga, the H5 type predominates in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Since the H7 strain takes significantly longer for the hens to exhibit symptoms of infection, they remain infected for a longer period of time and spread the virus to other flocks of fowl.

Although the extent of the projected price shocks is yet unknown, SA Poultry Association (Sapa) general manager Izaak Breitenbach told Moneyweb said that shortages might linger far into the holiday season as the industry works to gain control of the situation.

“We are already seeing shortages in commercial table eggs in the marketplace and that will put upwards pressure on the price of table eggs,” Breitenbach said.

When there is an avian influenza outbreak, farmers must to slaughter all hens and destroy any eggs. The same goes for farms 3km away from the initial infection site. This helped farmers in the past by stopping the spread of disease and reducing its effects. According to Sapa, the first bird flu outbreak in 2017 resulted in the culling of 2.7 million birds, while the second outbreak in 2021 resulted in the culling of 3 million. Outbreaks of the avian flu, which started towards the end of May 2023, killed nearly a quarter of South Africa’s poultry, with layer farms being the hardest hit, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health.