State accused of taking shortage of eggs lightly

Poultry expert and the managing director of Hume International, Fred Hume has accused local egg producers of downplaying the critical egg shortage in South Africa.

Hume also said that the South African Poultry Association (Sapa) and Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development have a few erroneous statements to answer to.

This week, he said that since it has been reported that 7.5-million commercial layer hens have been culled during the recent bird flu epidemic that hit the
nation, the local market is then currently underproducing by as many as 45-million eggs per week.

“Assuming one hen lays around five or six eggs per week, the local market is then currently underproducing by as many as 45-million eggs per week. Yet, the public is continually told that there’s nothing to fear. In response, Sapa is calling on government to open imports from Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, and Malawi. The issue is that these four nations produce only around one kilo tonne (kT) per week.

“By contrast, South Africa needs, at minimum, an influx of 2.25kT to make up for the shortage created by the aforementioned mass culling. We also do not have a clear picture of what the avian influenza situation is like in these countries, and it is highly doubtful that they would sell all their available eggs to South Africa,” said Hume.

 He added it did not matter how the issue is dealt with.

“We simply cannot rely on our Southern African Development Community (SADC) partners alone to help us out of this developing crisis. We urgently need to ease import restrictions placed on major egg producers such as Argentina, Brazil, the USA and Eswatini,” he said.

 Hume stated that the department’s minister Thoko Didiza also announced at the end of last month that the department had granted “thousands of permits for the
importation of table eggs, fertilised eggs, and poultry meat to ensure sufficient stocks [are] available for the Christmas holiday season”.

 He said that Didiza further specified that, in the past two months, 115 permits had been approved for fertilised eggs, 48 for egg powder and 24 for table eggs, which amounts to 1.9-million eggs.

 “How does the department plan to fill the outstanding 28-million eggs shortage without opening trade with our far larger South American trading partners?

“Sapa’s claim that during the previous avian influenza outbreak in 2017, “poor, rotten eggs” were dumped in the country by South American exporters paints a deceptive picture of the current situation. If we import poor quality eggs, we risk losing millions of rands, which is why we strive to ensure that only high-grade eggs enter the country.

 “Sapa’s misleading assertion that low-quality eggs are being imported in large quantities in refrigerated containers suggests that the local industry may not be acting in the best interests of the average South African who’s struggling to feed the family.

“Can we assume that the local industry has a hidden agenda for deterring imports from South America while pushing for imports from SADC partners?”

He added that the only real recourse for this situation was for the South African government to intervene and rein in the department’s harsh anti-competitive policies and also to lift the 40-day rule under Regulation 345 and ease import restrictions and anti-dumping duties on certain countries.

“These measures will ensure that the egg shortage and looming poultry meat shortage is resolved as soon as possible,” he said.

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