The failure by the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Senzeni Zokwana, to produce a clear and effective plan to address the bird flu crisis is likely to cost the agricultural sector thousands of jobs
While Minister Zokwana is dragging his feet on a plan to effectively deal with the outbreak, the poultry and ostrich industries are left in the lurch to deal with this crisis that could potentially wipe them out.
This became clear from discussion the DA had with role-players in the poultry, egg and ostrich sectors yesterday when we met to discuss the impact of avian influenza in the agricultural sector.
The DA has repeatedly called for swift action on this matter and will again write to the Minister to demand that:
Funding be immediately made available to compensate farmers who have to cull their flock to stop the spreading of the virus;
All breeding stock is vaccinated to protect the industry; and
An emergency plan in place to test, dispose of culled animals and advise all farmers, especially small-scale farmers in rural areas, as this would need a budget from Treasury and cannot wait any longer.
It is clear that the virus is spreading and that the current method of culling and quarantine is not going to contain further spreading of the virus either.
The Western Cape is the hardest hit with 72% of its poultry population affected, while 20% of all breeding stock nationally has been lost. The Minister, as per the mandate of his Department, must assure South Africans that he has a clear plan of action to ensure that jobs can be saved and that containment measures are firmly in place.
The owners of bird farms and businesses have had to cull their birds and shut down due to the government's slow response in ensuring that the virus is contained. This is putting the jobs of tens of thousands of workers at risk and poultry businesses could be out of business forever.
There are many other small role-players in the in the agricultural sector that are in the exact same situation and would have to shut down business if not supported.
The failure by the ANC-led government to deal decisively with this crisis has already cost jobs and is unacceptable. Any further delay will most certainly cost more and the Minister must be made to answer for this.
Annette Steyn MP
DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries