S.Africa’s RCL Foods culls 410,000 chickens amid bird flu outbreak

(Reuters) – South Africa’s RCL Foods said on Thursday its poultry unit Rainbow has culled 410,000 chickens due to the country’s worst outbreak of avian flu, heightening fears of chicken meat and egg shortages.

The outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), a bird flu which spreads rapidly in an infected flock causing a high death rate, has already impacted table egg supplies in the country and producers have warned of chicken meat shortages in the coming weeks.

Rainbow is one of South Africa’s largest chicken producers, supplying retailers and fast food businesses.

“The outbreak has moved at a rapid pace, and the

situation is constantly evolving. To date an estimated 410,000

birds have been culled, which has resulted in an estimated

financial impact of 115 million rand ($5.99 million),” RCL Foods said in an update.

The company said it was taking steps to avert supply disruptions, but “there is tension in the supply chain.”

On Wednesday, neighbouring Namibia suspended poultry imports from South Africa, citing the bird flu outbreak. However, South Africa only exports between 1% and 2% of its production, according to the country’s poultry producers’ association.

Last week, RCL’s peers, including the country’s largest integrated poultry processor Astral Foods and Quantum Foods, said the bird flu outbreak was ravaging a sector that was already burdened by South Africa’s electricity crisis and rising costs.

($1 = 19.1864 rand)

(Reporting by Nelson Banya; Editing by Susan Fenton)