South African retailers are restricting the number of eggs customers can buy as avian influenza has impacted supply.

Pick n Pay has confirmed to Just Food that it is placing a limit on egg sales while Woolworths has told news agency Reuters that it is doing likewise.

South Africa is currently battling the worst outbreak of high-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), a type of bird flu that spreads quickly and causes a high death rate among the chicken stock.

The outbreak of the disease has led to fears that South Africa may face a shortage of chicken meat as well as eggs.

Woolworths told Just Food that it has limited whole egg purchases to six egg per customer in-store and online as well, as it is “experiencing significant challenges with [its] egg supply”

“At this stage, our poultry meat supply hasn’t been affected,” said the retailer in a statement.

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By GlobalData

A main focus for us is to ensure our other suppliers receive the eggs they need as ingredients to stay in production, which is part of the reason the buying limits have been important for us.

Woolworth said that this is a “temporary measure”.

Pick n Pay told Just Food that its stores are not out of stock of eggs but it is urging customers not to panic buy.

“We are asking customers to please shop responsibly. We will limit purchases to one or two egg packs per customer, depending on the region,” the retailer said.

“We will continue to work closely with our suppliers to manage our stock so that we assist stores in areas where suppliers have been affected.”

Woolworths told Reuters: “As is the case across the market, we’re experiencing significant challenges with our supply due to Avian Flu.

“Because of this, we’ve implemented a limit on whole egg purchases in our stores to six eggs per customer while we work with our farmers to ensure regular supply returns as soon as possible.”

However, Shoprite, another major grocer in South Africa, told the Reuters it had no plans to ration eggs. It said it is working closely with suppliers to secure “as much stock as possible” and utilise its supply chain to other regions experiencing shortages.

In a fast-moving crisis, Namibia last week suspended poultry imports from neighbouring South Africa, citing the bird flu outbreak.

And South Africa’s RCL Foods revealed last week that its Rainbow poultry unit has had to cull 410,000 chickens as a result of the flu outbreak.

In an announcement on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) on 28 September, RCL Foods said the cull has resulted in an estimated financial impact of R115m ($6m).

Another poultry and egg supplier, Quantum Foods, had warned of a potential loss linked to an outbreak of bird flu last week.

And Astral Foods added bird flu to the challenges faced by the South African poultry processor as it issued another profit warning.