Namibia has suspended imports of chickens and eggs from neighboring South Africa, which is experiencing the most serious outbreak of bird flu in its history, the Namibian government announced on Wednesday (Sep. 28).

The decision, with immediate effect, comes after an “alarming” increase in cases of “highly pathogenic avian influenza”, said the southern African country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

“The import and transit of live chickens, poultry meat, eggs and chicks from South Africa will be suspended “until further notice”, according to the same source.

One of the continent’s leading poultry producers, South Africa reported the first cases of bird flu in poultry farms in April.

Due to its proximity, it was Namibia’s “preferred supplier” of chickens.

But the country also imports poultry from Europe and South America, Namibian Ministry of Agriculture spokesman Jona Musheko told AFP.

Largest single contributor to the agricultural sector

Last week, poultry farmers in South Africa warned of the threat of a chicken shortage in the coming months, due to this epizootic.

Quantum Foods, one of the market’s heavyweights, reported losses of some $5.3 million (4.9 million euros), or two million chickens, on its farms due to the virus.

The country’s largest producer, Astral, had also announced that the market was already suffering from a shortage of eggs.

According to a 2020 report of the South Africa poultry association, the poultry industry remains the largest single contributor to the agricultural sector in the country. In 2020, some 18 % of the total agricultural gross value and 41 % of animal product gross value stemmed from poultry production.

Around the world, bird flu is infecting more and more mammals, from foxes to sea lions, raising fears that the virus is adapting to infect humans more easily, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Contagion is generally seasonal, but in recent years cases have appeared throughout the year, and experts now consider the epizootic to be the largest ever observed.