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EU ban on SA Ostrich exports still stands

WC agriculture is unsure when the EU ban on ostrich meat exports will be lifted.

Young ostriches on an Oudtshoorn farm which escaped the bird flu cull. Picture: Aletta Gardner/EWN

CAPE TOWN - The Western Cape Agriculture Department cannot say when a European Union (EU) ban on ostrich meat exports will be lifted, officials said on Sunday.

The ban was put in place several years ago following an outbreak of Avian influenza among ostriches in the Karoo.

The ban hit the industry hard, since the initial outbreak of bird flu two years ago.

Many farmers have been forced to shut-down their operations as a result.

Gerrit van Rensburg, who is the Western Cape's Agriculture MEC, said he was hoping to have the ban lifted by June but also said this is highly unlikely.

"We're still well on our way although we're not sure if it will be in June. We're busy with the registration of the farms in that area and when that's been completed I believe the national department will apply at the EU to lift the ban."

He added that currently farmers conduct a pre-heating process before selling off the meat.

"At the moment we're exporting heat-treated meat to Europe and we're building a new market for ourselves. South Africans can buy fresh meat; it is absolutely safe at the moment."

Meanwhile, a new threat emerged, at the beginning of April, that feather poachers were sneaking onto farms at night and plucking feathers from the birds.

The value of feathers at the time had increased, which was thought to be the abrupt surge of feather thieves.