South African retailers impose rationing, plan imports amid avian flu crisis

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South African retailers impose rationing, plan imports amid avian flu crisis

South Africa's major retailer Woolworths (JO: WHLJ ) has implemented strict biosecurity protocols and rationing measures in response to the country's worst avian flu outbreak since 2017. The disease has significantly impacted poultry stocks and egg production, leading to rising egg prices and severe shortages.

Customers are now limited to purchasing six eggs or dwindling packs of 18 or 36, with smaller egg cartons priced between R25 and R48 (USD1 = ZAR19.4222) for six, as confirmed by Woolworths' Commercial Director Chan Pillay on Wednesday.

In addition to Woolworths, other retailers like Pick n Pay (JO: PIKJ ) have also taken measures against the crisis. Pick n Pay has imposed regional restrictions to support stores with the most affected suppliers. On the other hand, despite depleted stocks on its Sixty60 app, Shoprite has refrained from imposing purchase limits.

The avian flu outbreak is caused by two virus strains, H5N1 and H7N6, as identified by the South African Poultry Association. Despite this crisis, Minister Thoko Didiza anticipates a manageable impact on egg prices.

Following a meeting with retailers on Wednesday, Department of Agriculture's spokesperson Reggie Ngcobo outlined measures to improve egg supply, contain disease spread, and enhance the efficiency of issuing import permits for egg products. As part of these measures, the industry is contemplating importing millions of fertilised eggs and anticipates a surge in chicken imports ahead of December.

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