Loadshedding threatens SA chicken sector

JOHANNESBURG. – Entrepreneurs who have invested and have directed their efforts into chicken farming are facing a crisis which could lead to a countrywide chicken shortage in the coming weeks.

According to a tweet by the South African Poultry Association, members have had to cull over 10 million 10-day-old chicks due to disruptions caused by constant disruptions caused by persistent load shedding.

This could directly impact poultry farmers’ ability to meet the supply demands of the retail sector.

In the North West province, a poultry farmer said yesterday he was planning to put in a R1,5 million claim against Eskom after electricity disruptions at his farm killed an estimated 40 000 to 50 000 of his flock.

Herman du Preez, the owner of the Frangipani Boerdery in Lichtenburg, said that it was difficult to know the exact death toll as chickens were still dying. Problems began in mid-December when problems with a transformer prompted Eskom to connect the area to another line, he said, but there had been variations in the voltage damaged equipment such as pumps and motors.

Problems came to a head on Monday night, when insufficient voltage resulted in the air conditioning at one of the farm’s chicken houses to shut down, he said. The farm has about 550 000 chickens.

The continuation of Stage 6 load shedding in 2023 has sparked fears that disruptions in the agricultural supply chain could push up already elevated food prices and even result in shortages.

The South African Poultry Association warned earlier in January that load shedding had exacerbated pressure on egg producers, and about 10%, or 200, small egg famers had already gone out of business. Chicken shortages have also forced a number of fast-food outlets to temporarily shut down outlets, or cut items from their menus.

SA’s largest poultry producer, Astral Foods, put the direct cost of load shedding at its operations at R138 million in its 2022 year, and has battled for years with unreliable water and electricity at its facility in Standerton, Mpumalanga.

Izaak Breitenbach, the general manager of the South African Poultry Association, sais “What has happened recently (is that) we had to cull more than 10 million day-old chicks because they have to go into houses that are still occupied by birds that should have been slaughtered.

“And because the load shedding is occurring every day with no respite, producers are just falling further and further behind,” he said.

Another adverse effect of the crisis was the increase in the price of chicken as a result of load shedding. – News24.com

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