Dangerous roads crush chicken production

The poor state of South Africa’s roads and the impact of this and other infrastructure failings on chicken production were highlighted in last month’s FairPlay-Farmer’s Weekly digital summit reviewing the poultry master plan.

Trade advisor Donald MacKay said poor infrastructure, including roads and the supply of water and electricity, not only hampered poultry producers but would add to costs when South Africa sought to compete in the export market.

His comments followed months of complaints by poultry producers that not only were they suffering additional costs because of poor roads, but that they were being asked to pay for road repairs because towns or provinces had no money.

The road danger was highlighted two days later when a large vehicle transporting chickens to an abattoir overturned on an uneven and potholed gravel track that was once a tarred road. It was the second such incident in the past few months.

The latest incident involved a vehicle contracted to Astral Foods, South Africa’s largest poultry producer. Carrying crates of live chickens, it overturned on the R50 road outside Delmas in Mpumalanga province.

Astral immediately contacted veterinary services to dispatch injured birds.

The group’s chief operating officer, Gary Arnold, told local media that he had reviewed video material after the event. The video “showed precisely how difficult it is for any vehicle to use the R50 safely,” he said.

Elaborating for FairPlay, Arnold said the road was in a very poor state.

“Due to roadworks which have apparently long since stopped due to tender fraud or corruption, and the condition of the temporary gravel bypass, the truck at a very slow speed was avoiding large potholes and holes full of water which caused it to move to the verge of the temporary gravel road.  

“This bypass has a very steep incline to one side and due to the weight of the load, the rear trailer of the interlink arrangement overturned. It was an unfortunate accident, that could have been avoided were the roads infrastructure in the area in not so much of a diabolical mess.”

Basson Viljoen, Astral’s regional manager for broiler and contract grower operations, told FairPlay that the state of local roads was a big concern. It increased vehicle maintenance costs for businesses and farmers.

Another problem was unmaintained municipal gravel roads which trucks had to use to fetch chickens from contract growers and company farms. On some occasions the trucks had to be towed to the site by tractor, and then towed back again to a useable stretch of road, Viljoen said.

In August, a truck carrying 10 500 live chickens overturned near Reitz in Free State province, according to Netwerk24.