Govt lifts ban on poultry imports


Modern chicken farm production of white meat ** Note: Shallow depth of field


MASERU – The government has partially lifted the ban on the import of chickens and all poultry products, assuring local farmers that the avian influenza that hit the country between May and June, killing scores of chickens countrywide, is currently under control.

The farmers are, however, still not allowed to import from provinces that include Gauteng, Free State, North West, Mpumalanga, Easter Cape, Kwazulu Natal and Western Cape. These provinces have been severely impacted by the disease.

They are allowed to import from Limpopo and Northern Cape where there are no reported cases of the virus. Speaking at a media briefing that was held in Maseru on Tuesday this week, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Likopo Mahase, apologised to the farmers for the inconvenience caused by the ban, saying they could now resume trading with provinces that have not been affected by the virus.

The outbreak of bird flu was discovered at a chicken layers’ farm in Ha Penapena on the outskirts of Maseru earlier in May. The government thereafter announced the decision to ban both imports and exports of chicken products, warning the public to be vigilant and report any deaths of domestic poultry and wild birds to the ministry.

The ministry’s investigations later revealed that the disease had been imported from South Africa where the chickens were bought. It was further believed that the disease came from Europe before it landed in South Africa.

“Between May and June, the disease was discovered at two major poultry farms in Ha Penapena, Maseru and Sebothoane in Leribe where a total of about 500 000 chickens were disposed of, to curb the spread of the virus,” Mahase told the media on Tuesday, adding that the virus had initially hit South Africa, which is Lesotho’s major supplier of poultry chickens and products.

The Director General of Veterinary Services in the ministry of agriculture, Dr Relebohile Mahloane said the disease has such an acute impact on the poultry farming industry that it quickly spreads within days of breaking out.

He said across the country, there are no reported cases of human to human infections adding, however, that there are cases of chicken to human infections which he said need serious monitoring as they can spread further.

For her part, the ministry’s Director of Veterinary Services, Dr Relebohile Lepheane, said they have been getting good compliance from the farmers, adding that verification was made in affected farms where samples were taken and later came back negative.

She said the ministry’s efforts to control the disease were easily accomplished through the cooperation of the farmers. The main symptoms of the avian influenza in poultry include depression, loss of appetite, cessation of egg laying, nervous signs, swelling and blue discolouration of combs and wattles due to disturbance of blood circulation, coughing, sneezing and diarrhea. Sudden death can occur without any warning signs.

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