By Thoboloko Ntšonyane

MASERU – Lesotho has banned the imports of South Africa’s (SA) poultry products with immediate effect, the Minister of Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition Hon Thabo Mofosi.

The Minister told this publication in an interview last week.

The Ministry has since revoked the poultry products permits.

This is owing to the outbreak caused by a highly pathogenic (HPAI) strain of H7N6 avian influenza that broke out in poultry farms in South Africa (SA).

The SA’s Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development reported that the current influenza A(H5N1) outbreaks have been ongoing since April this year. The Department further reported to the SA media that the affected farms have been placed under quarantine while investigations are being carried out.

This ban is for both chickens and eggs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Avian influenza or bird flu refers to the disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza (flu) Type A viruses. These viruses naturally spread among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird and animal species”.

People with close contact with dead or sick birds confirmed with both the A(H5N1) or A(H7N6) infection are said to present upper or lower respiratory tract symptoms (cough, runny nose, scratchy throat,  or pneumonia).

The Minister indicated that the ban will be implemented until SA can contain the outbreak. He also mentioned that the local veterinarians are collaborating with their SA counterparts.

Mofosi called on the poultry farmers to capitalize on these import bans and increase their production.

He pointed out that the country has “failed” in agriculture for far too long and this he said had caused even those who wanted to invest in agriculture to be skeptical.

Mofosi said they have mounted capable structures within the Ministry to guide people who want to venture into poultry farming and other types of farming.

“We have recently undergone comprehensive training, even with the Ministry staff. Our people must get involved in beef and poultry farming. Our country’s vulnerability stems from our inability to be self-sufficient, ” the Minister said, appealing to local investors to approach them for guidance.