South Africa, which accounts for 80 percent of world ostrich production, suspended exports of ostrich meat and all live birds following an avian flu outbreak.
The disease outbreak has been narrowed down to one farm with about 5,000 ostriches in Oudtshoorn, Wouter Kriel, the spokesman for the Western Cape Provincial Department of Agriculture, said in a phone interview today. Oudtshoorn is about 450 kilometers (279 miles) from Cape Town.
Each month South Africa exports 108 million rand ($15.9 million) of ostrich meat, sought after for its low cholesterol and fat content, said Anton Kruger, a spokesman for the South African Ostrich Business Chamber. About 90 percent of exports go to Europe and 3 percent to East Asia. South Africa in 2005 lost 600 million rand in exports because of an avian flu outbreak, losing 26,000 birds and 4,000 jobs.
The ban mainly affects ostrich meat, which accounts for 62 percent of the industry’s 2.1 billion rand annual turnover, Kruger said. The export of feathers is under negotiation, while leather products and egg shells are unaffected, he said.
No slaughtering is taking place, the agriculture department’s Kriel said. Measures to contain the virus may include either vaccination or culling, he said.
The World Organization of Animal Health normally requires that infected birds are culled, Kruger said. The average price of an ostrich is 2,500 rand, he said.
“It’s difficult to say at this stage how long the suspension will be in place,” Kruger said. The Department of Agriculture should be able to use “backward tracing” to locate the source of the disease and eradicate it, he said.
Ostriches are tested for avian flu every 28 days, following the initial outbreak of the disease in South Africa in 2005, Kruger said. No ostriches can be transported anywhere without a health certificate saying they have been tested within this period, he said.
About 80 percent of ostrich farms are in the Western Cape and about 15 percent in the Eastern Cape, Kruger said.
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