SA Weather Service warns that drought conditions are likely to last for the rest of this summer. File picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers.

Parliament – The effects of the drought conditions currently affecting the country’s agricultural sector could hit the pockets of ordinary South Africans soon, meat producers warned as they briefed MPs in Parliament on Tuesday.

Briefing Parliament’s portfolio committee on agriculture, South African Poultry Association (Sapa) senior executive Charlotte Nkuna warned that if current conditions persist and input costs continue to rise for the country’s chicken producers it could have a dire impact on the industry.

“We would need an additional R7 to be able to sustain ourselves,” Nkuna said, referring to the possible price increase for a two kilogram bag of mixed chicken portions which the majority o South Africans eat as a protein source.

While there were alternatives to chicken, they would be more expensive or contain lower protein levels, she said.

Sapa chief executive Kevin Lowell further warned that the drought, coupled with an increase in bone-in chicken imports from the United States, could cost between 20 000 to 30 000 jobs in the industry.

Lowell suggested government make certain chicken products, specifically the two kilogram bag of mixed chicken portions, VAT exempt.

“If just that product was VAT exempt, you would take four to five rands off the price…,” he said.

Sapa further said government should control the export volumes of maize – used as feed for chickens – so the country could build up a “strategic reserve” of the grain to avert the devastating impact of disaster situations in the agriculture sector.

Red Meat Producers Organisation (RMO) chairman Pieter Prinsloo said they too expected an increase in prices.

“The beef, lamb and mutton is going up by 12 to 14 percent this year,” Prinsloo told MPs.

Prinsloo said farmers needed assistance to the tune of R7 billion in the “best case scenario” which would entail adequate summer rainfall before May.

In the “worst case scenario”, RMO predicted farmers would require financial assistance totalling R16.5 billion.

The South African Pork Producers Organisation’s James Jenkinson said the price for pork products could increase by as much as 25 percent.

Jenkinson said around six percent of pork producers already had to close shop as a result of the drought.