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KFC temporarily suspends Lesotho operations

Business

… Minister issues stern warning against poultry smuggling

Ntsoaki Motaung

Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) has announced that all of its Lesotho outlets will be temporarily closed until further notice.

KFC said this decision comes in response to unexpected government regulations that have severely impacted the restaurant’s supply chain. It emphasised that food quality and safety remain their top priorities.

“We can confirm that KFC Lesotho currently procures its poultry products from certified AI-free farms in South Africa. These farms are tested independently and daily to ensure the poultry is free of Avian Flu. We will continue to engage the relevant stakeholders and hope to reach a resolution as soon as possible,” KFC said in a statement yesterday.

This development follows the government’s recent ban on the importation of poultry and poultry products from neighbouring South Africa.

The decision was prompted by multiple outbreaks of highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) strains, H5N1 and H7N6, in various provinces of South Africa from September to October 2023.

Dr. Keneuoe Lehloenya, Director of Livestock Services in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, confirmed the suspension of imports and revoked all related permits with immediate effect, stating: “The Lesotho Veterinary authority is in constant communication with the South African counterparts, as soon as it is deemed safe, based on the disease surveillance, the department will announce.”

Minister of Agriculture, Food Security, and Nutrition, Thabo Mofosi, last Friday issued a stern warning against the smuggling of poultry products into the country.

Mofosi emphasised that such actions not only violated regulations but also posed a serious threat to public health.

“We are not expecting to have chicken and its products smuggled into the country because this is done to protect the nation. If anyone is found doing that, they will be dealt with accordingly,” he affirmed.

To address the situation, he explained that the ministry was actively seeking to establish business relationships with other countries to ensure a stable supply of safe poultry products.

The Minister urged local entrepreneurs and investors to consider poultry farming, assuring them of the ministry’s support and expertise to meet local demand.

Director Lehloenya reiterated the severity of Avian Influenza, highlighting its potential transmission to humans.

She acknowledged the adverse impact of the suspension on local poultry businesses, emphasising the need for continued vigilance in coordination with South African authorities.

“It is worth mentioning that the disease can be spread amongst birds including chicken and also it can move from the birds to humans, and people who could contract the disease can even die,” Lehloenya warned.

Poultry farmer, Rethabile Makhalema, expressed concern over the sudden ban’s economic repercussions. Makhalema lamented the lack of prior consultation with farmers, suggesting that a more nuanced approach, such as selectively sourcing from unaffected areas in South Africa, might have been more effective.

He stressed the importance of government investment in the poultry industry to ensure long-term self-sufficiency.

“The government should start investing in the poultry business to ensure that in the end, the country can produce for itself,” he said.

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