THE VIOLENCE, lawlessness and looting have endangered the poultry industry, a key component of South Africa’s food security.
South African Poultry Association (Sapa) general manager Izaak Breitenbach said that over the past few of days the industry had been beset by violent mobs of thousands of people invading farms, stealing poultry and equipment, destroying infrastructure and endangering the lives of employees.
“Numerous cases of arson have been recorded, and threats to burning down large poultry processing plants have been real. Whilst the industry grapples with the impact of highly pathogenic bird flu, the farm invasions have destroyed all biosecurity measures present on those production units, and these flocks are now at risk of infection,” said Breitenbach.
The industry association said that supply chains had been severely disrupted, with logistics services and distribution centres forced to close.
Breintenbach said the movement of poultry products and other essential food items to consumers had been hindered, if not completely halted in certain sectors.
He said the retail and fast food sectors have been hard hit by the looting of shopping malls and retail stores and the destruction of infrastructure.
According to Sapa, the cost of these losses was incalculable and were mounting by the day.
Breitenbach said the poultry industry had no way of moving fresh products to the market because of the severe disruptions to delivery channels.
“Storage capacity for frozen product at our members’ operations is limited, with no way of currently accessing frozen outside storage. To add to the challenges, the ability to move animal feed to poultry farms and other livestock sectors has been severely disrupted, especially in KwaZulu-Natal. This can lead to a massive animal welfare issue for the industry. Day-old poultry stock that could not be moved to farms across the country for placement has had to be euthanized,” he said
Breitenbach said the poultry industry’s finances were already under great strain because of high input costs, the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and hard the lockdowns, and the recent bird flu outbreak.
He said the destruction of infrastructure over the past few days would have grave consequences for South Africa, negatively impacting future investment, economic growth and transformation, and would increase hunger because of broken food supply chains and rising costs.
The poultry industry, under the sector’s master plan, had been working to create jobs in an environment of growing unemployment, and transforming the industry to open up opportunities for more emerging farmers to own businesses and farms. Thus far, it said it had invested more than R1 billion towards realising this ambition.
“We call on the president and law enforcement agencies to enforce the upholding of the rule of law and to arrest and prosecute all those involved in sabotaging our socio-economic stability as witnessed over the last few days. There is enough evidence on social media platforms to identify those complicit in creating instability and fuelling the criminality, and we call on law enforcement agencies to act immediately against these treasonous individuals,” he said.
According to Statistics South Africa’s Stats Biz report of May, the poultry industry was an important source of income in the commercial agriculture industry.
The report said that considering the sales of live chickens, chicken meat and eggs, the total value of chicken-related sales almost rivalled that of the entire field crop sector.