The poultry sector offers important opportunities for economic development for big and small businesses in South Africa.
However, for this is to be achieved, the government says the country needs to compete with global players who already have many advantages.
Thabitha Mokone, who is a senior manager in the Free State Agriculture Department, told a webinar hosted by the Small Enterprise Development Agency this week that the poultry sector was the largest segment of the agricultural industry.
“(It accounts) for 16.6% or R47.9-billion of the total gross value product of the agricultural production of R288.6-billion. It provides direct and indirect employment to over 110,000 people in the value chain,” she said.
It also had the potential to include more SMMEs, as it was a strong platform for rural development and the main supplier of jobs and protein, Mokone said.
“However, we need to indicate that the country does not produce enough quantities to meet the demands of locals, hence the need for imports,” she said.
Mokone said the North West was the largest producer of poultry, followed by Mpumalanga and the Western Cape.
Some of the challenges the sector faced were feed costs, diseases and cheap imports.
“The prices of maize and soya beans are determined internationally and tend to rise for South African producers in drought years. In comparison, the South African farmer is paying more for his or her feed than their international counterparts,” she said.
“Disease outbreaks such as the avian flu results in high mortality, and this also results in restrictions of imports and exports.”
According to a report by the South African Poultry Association, 56 tonnes of poultry meat were imported in 2018 and it rose by 12.5% in 2019.
However, despite these and other challenges, Mokone said the sector was ripe for growth and investment.
“Poultry farming offers important opportunities for economic development in South Africa. This includes the potential expansion of both maize and soya bean production, growing small-scale poultry farming and local production networks, and the supply of affordable protein to South African households,” she told the webinar.
“In line with these opportunities, South Africa needs to grow the poultry sector and protect it against the potential loss of capacity.”
Mokone made a few recommendations that could bolster the sector’s growth.
“We need to identify and set out targets for the advancement of ownership by black South Africans and workers across the poultry value chain,” she said.
“We should also set up a forum of engagement with the finance sector and consider practices and standards in the industry and their impact on the development of smaller, black-owned poultry enterprises, with a view to address unnecessary inhibitors.”
According to President Cyril Ramaphosa, South Africa’s poultry master plan has contributed to the production of more than a million additional chickens a week.
The plan has seen the industry invest R800-million to upgrade production.