The Western Cape agriculture department will cull another 360 ostriches in the Oudtshoorn area by the end of this week.
Spokesman Wouter Kriel yesterday said this would end the department’s year-long culling programme in an effort to eradicate the bird flu outbreak that has all but decimated the once lucrative industry.
More than 40,000 ostriches have been culled since the H5N2 virus was first detected in Klein Karoo flocks in March last year, including 3,000 female breeders, which will affect breeding for the next three years – the time it takes to reach reproductive maturity.
While affected farmers received R50 mill. in compensation from the government, the export ban imposed 14 months ago by the European Union (EU) has resulted in revenue losses of more than R800 mill.
Ostrich farmers who lost their flocks have had no income for over a year, and some have also lost their farms. In addition, the jobs of thousands of farm workers and employees in associated industries have been put on hold pending the lifting of the export ban.
Before the flu outbreak, the Klein Karoo region provided about 170,000 slaughter birds a year, representing about 70% of ostrich meat consumption worldwide.
Western Cape agriculture MEC Gerrit van Rensburg said that if the region’s ostrich farms remained virus-free for three months, the agriculture department could apply to the EU, which imports 90% of South Africa's ostrich meat, to lift the ban.
The state vets were sure there would be no further positive tests because the extensive culling over the past year had greatly lowered the ostrich population, Mr Kriel said.
Source: Business Day, South Africa