Call to Action: Help Save South Africa’s Small Farmers

Ade Camngca is a small farmer with a lifelong passion for raising chickens, and a deep love for his community. He supported himself through university by selling poultry, and believes in the transformative power of small businesses like his.

But today, Ade and thousands of other small farmers, are facing a crisis. A crisis that threatens their livelihoods, our country’s food security, our rural economies, and the jobs of thousands of workers.

Earlier last year, Ade’s chicken farm in the rural Gauteng was thriving. He had just found new customers, forged new sales agreements, and had planned to double the size of his flock of layers, creating much-needed jobs in the process.

Over the course of last year, the war in Ukraine and global inflationary pressures contributed to skyrocketing global poultry feed prices. The rising cost of chicken feed – which comprises up to 70% of the cost of producing a chicken – began to take its toll.

Small farmers buy feed in small quantities from retailers, and Ade says that the cost of a 40kg bag of layer pellets increased from R320 at the start of 2022 to R410 by the end of the year. Layer mash, too, went up from R310 to R400 for a 40kg bag.

The future of Ade’s farm, and many others like it, hung in the balance. Ade knew he had to act. That’s why four months ago he launched a petition on change.org to urge the government to urgently drop VAT on poultry feed. 

This would be a game-changer for small farmers like him.

“Yes, I’m a small farmer, but when I buy feed I can spend up to R18 000,” says Ade. “By removing 15% VAT from that cost, I can make a profit, make sure that my people are well paid, and save to scale up my operations.”

Ade’s petition has gained the support of almost 5,000 small poultry farmers and members of the public.

Ade’s business closed its doors

Unfortunately, by the end of last year, Ade could no longer sustain his enterprise. The high cost of feed made it unprofitable, and he could not afford to keep subsidising production costs from his own pocket, which he had been doing for months. He was forced to close his poultry farm and retrench his workers.

The harsh reality is that 85% of the farmers Ade has since spoken to are also planning to exit the industry this year. They blame sky-high feed costs, unreliable infrastructure and a lack of government support.

It’s not only small businesses feeling the pinch 

The situation is dire, even for larger poultry producers like Astral Foods. Last week, SA’s largest poultry producer announced that it was making a loss of R2/kg for every chicken sold – showing the scale of the crisis even for integrated producers.

Chicken makes up 66% of all meat protein consumed locally and remains affordable and the most popular meat choice for consumers, despite rising costs.

Thousands of small poultry farmers across the country are hanging by a thread. Losing them would be a devastating blow to the country’s food security, to our rural economies, and to the tens of thousands of people employed in the sector, both formally and informally. 

How can you take action and help small farmers like Ade?

Ade, and the FairPlay team, refuse to give up hope. 

We will do everything we can to support those small poultry farmers who are still in business, and we would like to urge all South Africans to join us in signing Ade’s petition for the removal of VAT on poultry feed.

Please help us save our small poultry farmers and secure our food security. Sign the petition.