Astral CEO asks why government is attacking the poultry industry

Chris Schutte, CEO of Astral Foods, says the recent announcement of a poultry market inquiry was an unjustified assault on the industry, stressing that the struggling poultry sector needs support and investment, not further scrutiny.

Chris Schutte, CEO of Astral Foods, South Africa’s largest poultry producer said the announcement of a poultry market inquiry was an “attack” on the poultry industry.

In scathing comments to the financial newspaper Business Day, Schutte said he was “flabbergasted” by the market inquiry announcement and “I’m gatvol of this attack”.

“South Africa’s poultry industry is the biggest player in the agricultural sector and provides affordable protein. Why not support this industry? Why fight it? That part is very difficult for me very to understand.”

Schutte said the competition commission should look at companies with fat profit margins of 20%, not those in the struggling poultry sector.

“We are making paper-thin margins. Our margins are 1% or 2%. The government should come and say, let’s help this industry thrive, grow and employ people.”

Business Day said the industry feels particularly betrayed as it signed the poultry sector master plan with trade, industry & competition minister Ebrahim Patel in 2019 and agreed to invest in local production and increase jobs in feed businesses and at chicken farms and abattoirs.

Schutte said: “We as the industry were committed to this plan. We did everything that was required, including investing massive capital into infrastructure development.”