PRETORIA – Controls on the sale of live birds have tightened in the wake of an outbreak of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza in South Africa.

More than 260,000 chickens have been culled to prevent further spread of the virus. South Africa’s Dept. of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) initially moved to ban sales of live birds across the country, but widespread push-back forced the agency to drop the plan.

Instead, DAFF released measures aimed at improving traceability and biosecurity. The measures affected buyers or sellers of more than five live chickens for any purpose other than direct slaughter at a registered facility. Buyers and sellers of live poultry are subject to the following conditions:

  • Sellers of live chickens, commercial farmers and the traders who buy and resell chickens must register with the Poultry Disease Management Agency (PDMA). PDMA has the authority to register and keep records of all parties selling and buying live chickens. All information about the trade of live chickens will be kept confidential.
  • Only registered sellers and buyers can trade live chickens and are responsible for ensuring 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 the PDMA must sign an agreement to adhere to the required control measures.

Since the outbreak began in June, several trade partners to South Africa has suspended imports of raw meat, eggs and live birds. However, Agriculture Minister Senzeni Zokwana said in a statement that processed meat is considered safe for trade.

“All stakeholders are implored to comply with the registration and other requirements that are designed to allow the trade of live chickens to continue without compromising animal health,” Zokwana said. “Depending on the level of compliance that is achieved with these conditions, the Director Animal Health will review future requirements for blanket bans.”