DAFF to explain bird flu plans to Parliament


The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has been called on by the Democratic Alliance to brief Parliament on its plans to deal with the outbreak of avian influenza (bird flu) currently affecting the country's poultry industry.

The DA wants Minister Senzeni Zokwana to brief Parliament on the plans his department has to handle the risk to jobs posed by the outbreak in the poultry industry.

DA Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries Annette Steyn said that the party would write to the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Ms Machwene Semenya, and request that Minister Zokwana brief the National Assembly on DAFF's plans to combat the crisis.

Steyn said that the spreading of the outbreak, which has been reported across six provinces in the country already, has put around 111 000 direct and indirect jobs in the industry at risk.

"Zokwana must assure South Africans, especially businesses that employ thousands of people which have been negatively impacted by this mess that his department is on top of this impending crisis," Steyn said in a statement released on Sunday.

Steyn said that the spread of the virus has already led to job losses, which makes it appear as though the Minister and his department do not have any contingency plans in place to deal with the crisis.

"To date, more than 600 000 birds have been culled due to the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) seeming failure to urgently implement appropriate control measures," Steyn said.

The DA's shadow minister for Agriculture said that the party was concerned by DAFF's "tardy response" to how the industry is to be compensated once culling takes place.

"It is totally unacceptable that no funding has been made available for this," she said.

Steyn vowed to maintain pressure on the Minister to address and reassure the public that DAFF has "a proper plan to prevent shedding of jobs in the poultry sector".