Chicken shortages loom as load shedding hits poultry industry hard

South Africa could be faced with a chicken shortage due to load shedding Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)

South Africa could be faced with a chicken shortage due to load shedding Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Jan 19, 2023


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.

Speaking to the Citizen, Izaak Breitenbach, the general manager of the South African Poultry Association, pointed out that, ironically, there was no shortage of chickens. It was the backlog in the slaughtering of chickens causing the crisis.

“One can actually say there is no shortage of chickens. The chickens are standing on the farm, and we can’t get them through the slaughter process to get them to the restaurants and to get them to the retail. So that is really the issue we have.

“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. Companies with generators could make up for production using generators.

While this may be a viable solution, there were costs involved. The diesel cost of slaughtering by using generators had an estimated impact of 75c/kg on chicken prices, and the only way for businesses to recoup these expenses was by charging the consumer more.

Former Johannesburg mayor and leader of political party Action SA, Herman Mashaba tweeted “When we start paying R300 plus for a chicken, at least we will know why.”

Attached to his tweet was a video depicting the disposal of a large number of chicken carcases.

Breitenbach, on behalf of the poultry industry, called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to intervene as a matter of urgency. He indicated if interventions were not undertaken to remedy the situation, it could have a negative impact on food security in terms of animal protein supply.

The potential shortages that threatened to affect the retail market had already impacted KFC last December.

Several franchises were temporarily closed, and menu items were limited in other stores as a result of limited stock supply when the country experienced stage 6 load shedding.

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