November 6, 2023

South Africa Opens Its Doors to Fertile Eggs Imports


In response to the poultry crisis brought on by the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak, South Africa has taken significant steps to ensure a sufficient supply of poultry products for its consumers during the festive season. The South Africa Poultry Association (Sapa) has welcomed the decision by the government to allow the importation of fertile eggs, including products like powder and liquid eggs. This move aims to address the challenges faced by the local poultry industry and ensure that consumers have access to poultry products during these trying times.

Minister of Agriculture Thoko Didiza announced the decision to allow imports of poultry products, including fertile eggs, to alleviate the impact of the HPAI outbreak. The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development (DALRRD) has been actively working with stakeholders in the poultry industry to manage the crisis. Reggie Ngcobo, the DALRRD spokesperson, stated that the department had granted permits for various poultry products, including 115 permits for fertile eggs, 48 permits for egg powder, 2,406 permits for poultry meat, and 24 permits for table eggs.

Abongile Balarane, the general manager of Sapa’s Egg Organisation, expressed support for these measures, calling them “good steps” to assist the industry during this crisis. He highlighted the severe impact of the HPAI outbreak on South Africa’s layer hen population, with millions of hens being culled or suspected to be affected. In response, the industry has agreed to import powder and liquid eggs, primarily used for industrial purposes, while prioritizing the supply of fresh table eggs to consumers. Balarane emphasized the importance of this strategy as the industry rebuilds its flock size and awaits the approval of vaccines in South Africa.

Regional Assistance

To supplement the domestic supply, South Africa is looking to its neighboring Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries, such as Zimbabwe, Namibia, Angola, and Malawi, which are bird-flu free, to provide essential supplies. This collaborative effort will help meet the demand for poultry products in South Africa while ensuring the highest quality and safety standards are maintained.

Revisions to Regulations

The poultry industry in South Africa has learned from past experiences. In 2017, during a previous avian influenza outbreak, poor-quality eggs were imported from South America, leading to reputational damage and consumer dissatisfaction. In response to this, regulation R.345 was revised to establish clear rules for anyone wishing to import shell eggs and products into South Africa. This includes a requirement that eggs must not be sold after 40 days from the date of lay. This regulation aims to protect consumers from poor-quality eggs that may have been stored at low temperatures during transportation.

Balarane stressed that the poultry industry supports these regulations, including the 40-day rule, and emphasized that everyone must abide by the country’s laws. Importers are encouraged to work within the established framework to ensure the safety and quality of imported eggs and poultry products.

As the industry rebuilds its flock size and awaits vaccine approvals, these measures provide a lifeline for both producers and consumers during these challenging times.