Government has failed SA’s poultry farmers

The annual state of the nation (SONA) address was a disappointment for South Africa’s poultry farmers, said FairPlay founder Francois Baird.

The address marks the opening of parliament and is used to highlight government achievements and policy for the year.

Baird said the government had missed an opportunity to help an industry that was vital for food security but was “in big trouble and heading for a crisis”.

“It is being hammered by a perfect storm of rising feed costs, failing infrastructure such as water supply and daily power outages. Hugely higher electricity prices will hit them in a few months’ time, when they are at their weakest.”

Baird welcomed relief such as input vouchers for small-scale farmers and the possibility of upgrades for rural road and water services. However, he said, President Ramaphosa had let the poultry industry down in four important areas.

  1. He could have announced tax relief for farmers who need to buy diesel to generate their own electricity. Because of Eskom’s failings, farmers are spending millions a day to keep their operations going and their workers in employment.
  2. He could have enforced his request to Eskom to delay or moderate the planned 18.6% price increase from April this year. 
  3. He could have instructed the Treasury to revisit the request from FairPlay and poultry producers to remove the 15% value added tax from some chicken portions. VAT-free chicken, and particularly the frozen packs known as IQF (individually quick frozen) portions, would bring immediate relief to low income households, which rely on chicken for their meat protein.
  4. He could have announced an emergency meeting of the poultry master plan’s executive oversight committee for government and the poultry industry to draw up a crisis plan.

He said it remains to be seen whether the state of disaster to combat the electricity crisis brings any relief to poultry producers, both large and small, who need a 24-hour electricity supply.

The poultry industry – the backbone of food security in South Africa – supplied 66% of the meat consumed in South Africa, far more than beef, pork or lamb. Chicken was popular and affordable, particularly for poor people struggling with rising food prices.

“Yet poultry farmers, especially small chicken farmers, in dire straits and looking to government for help, got little or nothing,” Baird said.