The status of egg production in South Africa

In the second half of 2017, the egg industry experienced its worst disease outbreak, with highly pathogenic avian influenza type H5N8 arriving in SA with migratory wild birds.  4.7 million hens or approximately 20 per cent of the national flock were culled under instruction of the state vet, with little compensation given to farmers affected. The cost to SA farmers was in excess of R1.5 Billion. 

Eggs-pixabay

Egg shortages were experienced, primarily in the Western Cape, the province hardest hit by the H5N8 virus. The egg industry embarked on extraordinary lengths to remedy the imbalance in supply, including extending the period layer flocks were kept in production, importing fertile layer eggs to incubate locally, and ceasing any non-contractual exports of eggs.

The importation of eggs is unnecessary, the eggs are sourced from countries where we have little knowledge of those countries disease status, eggs are not inspected for physical or biological status, the countries from which they are sourced enjoy subsidies & export incentives at multiple levels in the production chain, the eggs are refrigerated at 2 degrees Celsius during their sea voyage, then repacked and distributed at ambient temperatures, this break in the cold chain in itself will cause deterioration. Unnecessary imports of whatever commodity or product also inflate the already critical SA trade deficit.

Ultimately, imported eggs mostly affect the informal market, where emerging farmers sell to this sector in SA.  Most formal retailers have high food safety protocols in place with regular inspections at source of production and packing.

The table egg imports, with the first shipment of imported eggs arriving in South Africa in June 2018, occurred a year after the first Avian Influenza outbreak, with the shortages of eggs occurring from July 2017 to July 2018 with production normalising to meet demand. The egg industry has had one new case of a different strain of Avian influenza reported this year.

South African egg producers pride themselves on producing top quality eggs, consumers buying South African eggs can be assured of the freshness, safety, top quality and high nutritional value that SA eggs have to offer. Buy South African, Local is Lekker. Proudly South African will always proudly be our motto.

AUTHOR: Willie Bosoga – chairman of the SAPA Egg Board