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By Devina Haripersad

Senior Business/Finance journalist

An epic cluck up! – 10 million chickens had to be ‘disposed of’ because of load shedding

The chicken industry is experiencing a double blow of losses as a result of rolling blackouts.

South African poultry farmers are taking massive losses, and have had to cull millions of chickens, because load shedding simply makes it impossible to operate profitably.

Load shedding continues to pose a serious threat to the supply of fresh food to both restaurants and fast-food outlets, not only stifling sales and growth, but also causing massive setbacks as suppliers take hit after hit in losses.

This has certainly been the case for those in the chicken industry, especially fast-food joints like KFC and Nando’s.

According to these outlets, they have been receiving reduced stock of chicken from suppliers who are struggling to keep the fridges running and slaughter houses going with the country’s rolling blackouts, that now last several hours on end.

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As a result, outlets like KFC have announced that they will be limiting their menu to try deal with the power outages. This in turn is expected to affect the company’s overall income on a month-to-month basis, as a result of the short supply of chicken.

There’s no shortage of chickens

The irony is that there is no shortage of chickens on the farm.

According to Izaak Breitenbach, the general manager of the South African Poultry Association, there is a secure supply of chickens on the farm.

“We produce ample chicken and there is no chicken shortage. The problem is that even though we have enough chickens on the farms, we can’t get them slaughtered and that has caused the shortages we have seen not only in KFC but also other QSR restaurants and this may spill over into retail and wholesale,” he explained.

Breitenbach went on to explain to The Citizen just how severely the chicken industry was being affected by load shedding, with losses that are sure to suffocate the R1 billion investment that was made into the industry last year, with the expectation that it would grow by at least 10%.

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“When chickens are not slaughtered, they grow bigger and out of specification for the consumer and for the fast-food outlets. So, the supply we had set aside for these outlets become unusable. The suppliers have no choice but to dispose of if it.”

10 million day old chickens disposed already

“The industry has in recent weeks disposes of in excess of 10 million one-day-old chickens. They could not be replaced because the older chickens have not been slaughtered and houses cleaned.

“This is not the only impact on the industry. Some companies have generators and the diesel cost of slaughtering by using generators have an estimated impact of 75c/kg on chicken prices, that will have to be recovered from the consumer

“This industry has invested in excess of R1 billion to grow the capacity in the industry by 10%. This capacity is now standing vacant at great cost because there is no electricity to use these new facilities,” he lamented.

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Breitenbach said the industry was calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to urgently intervene and put actions in place to remedy the situation and ensure food security in terms of animal protein supply.

President Ramaphosa this week cancelled his working visit to the World Economic Forum in Davos, due to the ongoing energy crisis.

His spokesperson Vincent Magwenya tweeted the president was convening a meeting with leaders of political parties represented in parliament, the National Energy Crisis Committee (NECCOM) and the Eskom board.

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