SA produces more than 65% of the world's ostriches but farmers say they need more rain
HARARE - Recent rains in South Africa may have provided some respite for ostrich producers in the Karoo region but farmers there say this is not enough to break the drought effects parching the region.
The Karoo ostrich farmers’ plight is exacerbated by power outtages instituted by Eskom as well as rising feed-stocks which are exerting pressure on margins.
SA produces “more than 65% of the world production” of ostrich products, according to Piet Kleyn of the SA Ostrich Business Chamber.
However, Joey Potgieter, an ostrich farmer under the Ostrich Producers Association has told Business Report that although the region has been receiving some rains in the past few months, “it is not nearly sufficient to break the current drought effects” that have been burning the region.
“The feed is very expensive and margins are low. We have to have a good feed conversion ratio and low mortalities to survive as farmer,” he said.
Other ostrich producers in the Karoo cited “labour laws with fixed minimum wages” as well as “the land talks” that are heating up in SA and “Eskom and its power failures” among additional constraints that are impacting on operations.
In the past year, the SA Ostrich Business Chamber in Oudtshoorn said producers of the big birds were suffering from drought.
However, despite the drought conditions affecting ostrich farmers in the Karoo, South Africa has remained “the leader by quite a margin in the world in terms of ostrich products supply” according to Piet Kleyn, CEO of SA Ostrich Business Chamber.
Potgieter further adds that there are also opportunities in 2020 to continue exports of day old chicks to the Middle East and Pakistan.
Other international markets are also still keen on SA heat treated ostrich meat, although other product exports are still restricted owing to the Avian Influenza outbreak that hit poultry producers in SA recently.
“Due to the AI situation in the RSA only heat treated meat were allowed to be exported as well as feathers / leather and pet treats. South African consumers are well aware of the healthy status of the meat and buy a certain amount of product in supermarkets and in restaurants,” further commented Potgieter.
There is also a growing local market for ostrich skin products although the amounts are still small.
South Africa has about 360 registered ostrich holdings although the number of those actively producing at the moment is just about 200. The country’s production of around 150,000 ostriches per year is however expected to be subdued owing to the drought conditions in the Karoo.
A few other producers such as Potgeiter meanwhile plan to boost output by about 30 percent this year after implementing survival measures.
Business Report reported this year that South Africa is facing mounting pressure from Nigeria which could dislodge it as the number one poultry producer in the sub-sectors of chicken and chicken eggs. SA has a current production of 19.7 million chickens a week against a market demand of 21million.
“South Africa to remain the biggest industry, but its share of total African production will fall further in the next decade,” says senior Rabobank analyst Nan-Dirk Mulder.