An outbreak of avian influenza has hit ostrich farmers in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, causing at least 23,000 birds to be culled since April and bringing on the possibility of a national disaster declaration. 

The country accounts for some 80% of global ostrich meat production, and 15% comes from the Eastern Cape. A ban on ostrich meat from the area has left the industry in the Eastern Cape crippled. A total shutdown of the industry in the Grahamstown area has left scores jobless, and although no birds in the region have tested positive for avian flu, farmers have been left without a market.

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A second round of testing for the virus was due to be completed in late June.