Government has introduced a raft of conditions on the trading of live chickens in an effort to contain an outbreak of avian influenza after an outbreak on two farms in Mpumalanga‚ where eggs were destroyed and about 260 000 chickens culled last week.

Agriculture‚ forestry and fisheries minister Senzeni Zokwana said on Thursday that no cases had been reported so far in other provinces‚ saying a team of veterinarians had swiftly responded to the threat and the farms were quarantined.

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Zokwana said as a precautionary measure‚ buyers or sellers of more than five live chickens for any purpose other than slaughter at a registered abattoir would be subjected to the following conditions:

• Live chicken sellers‚ including commercial farmers‚ and traders must register with the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA).

• Only registered traders are allowed to trade. It is the responsibility of the seller and buyer to ensure that their counterpart is registered.

• Farmers may only sell live chickens certified as healthy by a veterinarian or animal health technician.

• Traders may only sell healthy chickens and must keep records as prescribed.

• Sellers and buyers registering with PDMA would have to sign an undertaking to adhere to the required control measures.

Zokwana said these conditions applied to sellers of live broiler chickens‚ live spent layer hens‚ live spent breeder birds‚ point of lay pullets and any chickens that may fall into these categories.

The minister said there had been calls for vaccinations but he had been advised this would not be in the best interest of the country and producers.

He said vaccination would create an endemic situation‚ affect surveillance efforts and affect export certification as all of the country’s trade partners wanted products from countries where vaccination was not practised.

“In order to contain the disease‚ our team called for the ban on the sale of live chickens to manage the further spread. This triggered nationwide concern since a number of livelihoods had been affected. However‚ this measure was imposed in the interest of the country and the poultry producers at large and I can assure you that it was not taken lightly‚” the minister said.

Zokwana called for the cooperation of all affected parties in order to prevent any further spread of the current outbreak and enhance disease management.

He said a number of countries had suspended trade of raw meat‚ eggs and live birds from South Africa.

The minister said this was mainly because South African veterinarians have to certify that the country was free of avian influenza‚ and since June 22‚ they could not provide this certification.