The Ministry of Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition has announced a partial lifting of the chicken import ban from South Africa (SA), effective immediately.
This decision comes as a relief to many, following the previous restrictions due to concerns over the bird flu pandemic that hit neighbouring SA.
Minister Thabo Mofosi detailed the decision citing his ministry received reports from SA specialists in December indicating a decrease in bird flu cases.
“In light of the information we received, we have decided to partially lift the ban,” he said.
He added that the Lesotho government has established a collaborative framework with SA specialists to ensure that “only specific poultry products will be allowed entry.”
“The partial lift only applies to frozen chicken and fertile eggs,” the minister said.
The decision marks a cautious yet progressive step in normalising poultry trade with SA, Mofosi emphasised.
“It’s important to note that the importation of other poultry products from South Africa remains restricted due to the ongoing risk assessments. Our specialists continue to advise caution in this area,” the minister noted.
He revealed that to diversify poultry import sources and support local businesses, the government is facilitating imports from other countries.
“The government has earmarked countries like Zambia, Eswatini and Zimbabwe to supply parent stock to Lesotho. A task team comprising farmers and ministry specialists has already conducted a study visit to Eswatini,” Mofosi added.
Dr Mpolokeng Sekabi, from the ministry, emphasised their commitment to ensuring affordability for consumers.
“We are implementing subsidies and transport support for local businesses importing poultry, and this is aimed at preventing price hikes for consumers. We are also compiling a database to plan these subsidies effectively, although gathering data is currently a challenge due to limited interest,” she explained.
The Principal Secretary of the Ministry, Moshe Mosaase, addressed the financial aspects of the ministry’s measures, noting, “The budget for these subsidies isn’t fixed as it is dependent on the evolving situation.
“We are utilising our contingency funds to address this need and are ensuring flexibility in response to the crisis.”
This decision represents a careful balance between protecting public health and supporting the economic interests of the poultry industry in Lesotho, Mosaase said, noting the partial lift of the ban is a step towards normalcy, yet, “it underscores the continued vigilance required in managing animal health and trade.”