Chicken Industry

Small-scale farmers are in crisis

In a statement, FairPlay has urged the government to pay particular attention to the plight of small-scale poultry farmers, a critical component of the country’s food security and job creation.

“Small-scale poultry farmers, lacking the financial resources of the big commercial producers, have been hit hard in recent years – first by Covid-19 disruptions, then by fertiliser, fuel and feed increases due to the war in Ukraine and most recently by persistent loadshedding that disrupts production. Big and small producers are also being hit hard by the degradation of transport infrastructure, hampering delivery of agriculture inputs and outputs.”

Baird said small-scale farmers were being hammered by constant power outages, and a planned electricity price hike might finish them off. Many would go out of business, and jobs and skills – and access to affordable protein for poor people in rural South Africa – would be lost.

“The country’s two agricultural master plans – promoting the agricultural and agro-processing sector and the poultry industry – both focus on expansion and job creation, particularly at small farmer level. Both plans should be revisited urgently, and revised to enable small-scale farmers to survive the next few years.”

Baird pointed out that unlike farmers elsewhere in the world, South African farmers received no subsidies, and poultry farmers were not even compensated for chickens culled because of bird flu outbreaks.

“A scheme aimed at keeping small-scale famers in business over the next few years, compensating them in particular for losses due to load-shedding, would yield great benefits in the future. A range of other incentives can also be considered such as tax rebates, exempting feed input costs from VAT and similar initiatives. Poor consumers would benefit from VAT free local chicken.”

The food security threat, coupled with plight of small-scale farmers, needed urgent attention at top levels of government, from President Ramaphosa down.

“Only urgent action on keeping agriculture going, and in particular the survival of poor consumers, small farmers and their employees, can help avoid a food security collapse,” Baird stated.