SA’s chicken industry threatened by a perfect storm

South African poultry producers supply 66% of the country’s meat, so the threat to the industry from electricity shortages and other factors is a threat to national food security.

This is the basis on which FairPlay has urged a crisis meeting of poultry master plan signatories to safeguard the industry’s future, because the electricity crisis will take years to resolve and may worsen in the high-demand winter months ahead.

Hours of daily power cuts, known as loadshedding, meant that a modern and efficient industry, geared to 24 hour-production, now faced a perfect storm, FairPlay founder Francois Baird said in a statement.

“Chicken production is vital for South Africa’s food security,” he said. “Chicken is produced in vast and affordable quantities, and is by far the country’s most popular meat protein, particularly for low income households. Yet load shedding has compounded the industry’s burdens of dumping, poor infrastructure and municipal service delivery.”

Baird said the crisis affected the whole poultry value chain. Poultry producers had to invest millions in producing their own electricity because Eskom, the national utility, could not keep the lights on in the chicken houses.

“Small poultry farmers without the means to provide alternative energy, are in dire straits. Maize and soya farmers who feed the chickens, cannot irrigate their crops. A poultry feed shortage may loom next year, further escalating input and consumer prices for chicken.”

FairPlay called for urgent intervention by the two ministers responsible for the poultry master plan – Agriculture Minister Thoko Didiza and Trade, Industry and Competition minister Ebrahim Patel.

“Together, the poultry industry and the government need to draw up a plan to ensure that the industry and its jobs are protected, and that the vital supplies of affordable chicken to the nation are able to continue. The plan should help pay for the support by re-instituting dumping duties immediately and scrapping VAT on local chicken and chicken feed.”

The poultry industry is technologically advanced and internationally competitive, and will be able to fulfil its role in underpinning South Africa’s food security. Yet it is under threat from circumstances outside its control.

“South Africa’s poultry industry and its value chain should be declared a key pillar of food security and accorded national prioritisation to minimise disruptions to its ability to feed the nation,” Baird said.

Listen as FairPlay founder Francois Baird talks about food security on Power Business: