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Bird Flu Spreads at Astral Foods’ South African Chicken Farms

  • Astral says second farm affected, losses rise to $3.8 million
  • 16 outbreaks detected so far, government said Aug. 15

Bird flu is spreading in South Africa with Astral Foods Ltd. reporting that the disease has infected more chickens at a farm in Mpumalanga, prompting the company to put the operation under quarantine.

Astral’s attempts failed to isolate the highly pathogenic strain H5N8 found in one shed at its Welbedacht breeding facility near Standerton earlier this month and has now spread to other parts of the farm, the Pretoria-based company said in a statement Thursday. The disease, which affected two of Astral’s operations, cost 50 million ($3.8 million) so far, it said.

Some 16 outbreaks have been detected across the country, the Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries said Aug. 15, including eight commercial chicken farms, three in wild birds and two in commercial ostrich operations. While the disease does not affect humans consuming poultry, it is highly infectious for birds and typically kills entire flocks.

The disease is the third major headache for South Africa’s poultry industry in recent years, following increased feed costs due to the worst drought in more than a century in 2015-2016 and a trade row with Europe following an influx of cheap bone-in chicken portions.

Astral said contingency plans are in place to make sure that there’s no impact on supply to consumers. “This infection has impacted breeding stock and not broiler birds destined for meat production,” it said.

The stock dropped as much as 3.9 percent in Johannesburg before rebounding to trade up 0.3 percent at 154.50 rand a share at 10:17 a.m.

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