Avian flu hits Lesotho

Avian flu hits Lesotho

MASERU – LESOTHO this week banned the import and export of chickens after an outbreak of the avian flu in the country.
The ban comes after several regions in South Africa were also hit by the disease in recent weeks.

Agriculture Minister Likopo Mahase announced the ban during an address in parliament on Tuesday.
Mahase said the flu was first discovered in Ha-Pena-Pena in Maseru after a farmer’s 500 chickens died.

Investigations had revealed that they had died of the avian flu.
He said the terrified farmers immediately requested for help from his ministry when his chickens died. He had reared 3 000 chickens.
“I call on all business people countrywide who sell chicken to be aware that there is an outbreak of avian flu in Ha-Pena-Pena,” Mahase said.

He said when they received a call for help from the farmer they sent a vet to investigate. “On the following day other doctors were also sent to the same farm. On May 30 their investigations revealed that there is an outbreak of avian influenza called virus H5,” he said.
“To curb the infections I declare that chickens in and out of the country are not good for public consumption until further notice,” he said.
“Experts at the ministry should be given enough time to focus on the outbreak.”

Mahase said the public should be aware that the virus can infect people and it is everyone’s responsibility to save their own and others’ lives.
“Those whose chickens are sick or dying should visit the ministry for help,” he said.
The chairman of the Lesotho National Farmers Union (Lenafu) in Leribe, Daniel Chakela, said although this outbreak has not yet reached their area, they are already feeling the heat indirectly.

Chakela said they have struggled to receive their orders in South Africa due to the Covid-19 pandemic adding the ban on the sale of chickens will hit them hard.
“When we are hoping that the situation will get better, here comes this outbreak which completely stopped our orders,” Chakela said.
Chakela said this outbreak will likely affect their businesses in a way that could put them out of business.

The chairman of Lenafu in Mokhotlong district, Chalimo Mathaba, said the outbreak could pose a serious threat since they only have one veterinary doctor in the district.
The Secretary General of Meat Products Association in Lesotho, Teboho Motshephe, said the chicken ban is going to affect the meat industry massively.

“If we don’t have stock for our market this calls for a total shutdown of businesses,” Motshephe said.
He said this is not going to affect only the business but the economy at large and people are going to lose their jobs.
Motshephe said because of Covid-19, about 135 workers lost their jobs in the butcheries that have joined their association.
He said they only have about 150 workers left.
If this can really hit them hard, about 80 workers are going to lose their jobs, he said.

He explained that chicken contributes about 80 percent of all earnings from meat sales.
Motshephe said they import about a million chickens every month.
“Basotho provide about 60 percent of chickens in the industry,” he said.

The Ministry of Agriculture spokesman, Lereko Masupha, confirmed that they only have one veterinary doctor in each district.
Masupha said at the headquarters in Maseru there are less than five doctors.

Nkheli Liphoto & Refiloe Mpobole

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