Feb. 19, 2024


4 min read

Chickens can only be purchased in selected SA provinces

Chickens can only be purchased in selected SA provinces

Story highlights

    The lifting occurs after a four-month embargo on chicken and all poultry products into Lesotho
    Looking back, the idea of importing chicken from South Africa to Lesotho appeared implausible due to avian influenza

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THE chicken ban has finally been lifted, but local farmers are now required to purchase from specific South African provinces that are less affected by avian influenza (bird flu). These provinces include the Free State, the Eastern Cape, the Northern Cape, and Kwa-Zulu Natal.

The Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition, Thabo Mafosi, announced that the ban was lifted on Wednesday this week. The decision, he said, was made after assessing the bird flu situation in South Africa and determining that the selected provinces had a lower incidence of the sickness.

The lifting occurs after a four-month embargo on chicken and all poultry products into Lesotho due to avian influenza, also known as bird flu, which is a viral infection that can affect both birds and humans. Symptoms of bird flu in humans include cough, diarrhoea, respiratory difficulties, fever, headache, muscle aches, malaise, runny nose, and sore throat. The virus is transmitted to humans through contact with infected bird faeces, nasal secretions, or secretions from the mouth or eyes.

The Ministry of Agriculture's Director of Veterinary under Livestock, Dr. Relebohile Lepheeane, announced that permits will be issued to local chicken farmers who are required to purchase from specific provinces. Additionally, he emphasised the implementation of new measures at the border to test and sanitise trucks transporting chickens to prevent the spread of the disease, as the situation is still ongoing.

Meanwhile, the chairperson of the local poultry suppliers association, ’Mantsane Ntekoa, expressed her satisfaction with the government's decision to permit the importation of chickens from South Africa. “After enduring prolonged disputes, we are now ready to resume our business operations. Despite the challenges ahead, we are happy that we won the battle,” she said.

Looking back, the idea of importing chicken from South Africa to Lesotho appeared implausible. Consequently, small poultry business owners voiced their discontent with the government's discriminatory treatment towards them in relation to the buying and selling of chicken, especially when compared to larger enterprises.

Their dissatisfaction stemmed from the government's exclusive permission for the importation of frozen chicken into the country, which came after a four-month prohibition on poultry products in Lesotho.

For his part, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition Principal Secretary (PS) Moshe Mosaase concurred that the ban had a devastating impact on the economy overall. Citing the bleeding Lesotho Revenue Services incurred due to losses in potential Value Added Tax (VAT) revenue, he said, for instance, if a farmer imports around a million chickens or chicks, the tax man earns about M150 000 in VAT; therefore, such losses, if properly quantified, are very significant to the economy.

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He said some farmers in Lesotho can single-handedly order up to 25, 000 chicks to breed and sell; therefore, a lot of revenue has been lost since the October ban. He said Basotho are unable to produce their own chicken due to the expensive value chain that comes with it; from feeding to having an abattoir, the entire chain is expensive. In other words, Lesotho’s value chain in chicken production is yet to develop since the nation imports almost everything in the chain, from fertilised eggs or day-old chicks right up to chicken feed itself.

Thankfully, Mosaase revealed that the ministry has added a comprehensive poultry policy to the 2024–2025 budget, which includes incentives to assist farmers in attracting investors, which in the long run would lead to Basotho being able to produce their own chicken and establish a sustainable value chain.

“Chicken is one of the proteins that costs less; therefore, without it, everything has been slow. The ministry has been working hard looking for a way forward to find solutions in the matter,” he said.

Although the government has lifted the ban after four months, evidence is pervasive that it brought untold disaster as the entire country went into the festive season without chicken, the most accessible relish of ready choice for many.

Despite the ban being lifted, several chicken farmers are expressing their concerns about the lack of capital to restart their businesses. This is due to the four-month pause they experienced, during which their operations came to a halt. One farmer mentioned, "During those four months, our families relied on the money we had saved. However, we are relieved that we can now import chickens from South Africa."

In 2021, reports estimated that Lesotho imported US$38.9 million (more than M730 million) in poultry meat, becoming the 93rd largest importer of poultry meat in the world. In the same year, poultry meat was the third-most imported product in Lesotho.

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