Chicken Industry

A Pan-African approach to fighting hunger and poverty

In an opinion article published by IOL, economist and FairPlay expert panel member Mike Schussler examines a Pan-African approach to fighting hunger and poverty.

South Africa entered the pandemic with 10.4 million unemployed. Since then 2.1 million more have joined that queue from the ranks of the employed, not counting the 600 000 or so new entrants to the job market that are expected each year.

We know that our farmers compete well without subsidies, and despite high interest rates, uncertainty and failing infrastructure. Considering the poultry sector as one example, the potential collaborations and the benefits for the economy are evident. This is an industry that directly employs around 110 000 people; and buys huge volumes from the maize and soya sectors as feed.

The industry has a master plan in place to create more employment in South Africa, yet some neighbouring export markets are not open to us. In this regard South Africa needs to find a common goal – to help Africa feed itself with quality, value-for-money poultry supplied by an organised value chain from crop farms all the way to cold storage and marketing.

Government focus is required to open neighbouring markets and to support the poultry sector in growing the industry across Africa. Only government can deploy diplomacy to open closed markets.

When it comes to exporting food to other continents, African countries are often blocked by quality measures, besides being unable to compete with subsidised producers elsewhere. As a result, the only way forward is to systematically develop an African- grown food market and industry that pulls together all participants in the value chain to build volume and efficiencies of scale.

If the poultry and crop industries were part of a bigger combined plan for an African export industry this would improve the lot of stakeholders all the way from crop producers through meat producers to transport and storage providers, wholesalers, retailers, and eventually, crucially, also consumers.

The coronavirus has resulted in a broken global supply chain, which proves the importance of domestic food security. South Africa must play a key role in creating a Pan-African food industry that offers quality, good value and dependability. Consider a scenario where South Africa exports chicken, pork, wine and milk, with all the sectors sharing the cold-storage costs, and the government providing the soft loans to build these facilities in the export countries.

We need to think out of the box – the whole value chain needs encouragement and support, not always only financial, to stimulate work and feed our people. What we need is unbridled creativity if South Africa is to pay off debt, create jobs and feed our people. We are teetering on the brink of a very deep hole exacerbated by Covid-19 and we cannot afford to stumble now.