The challenges of poultry farming in South Africa
It is not often that the poultry industry finds its way to the front pages of mainstream media, although as stated in the latest WOW report on the poultry and egg industry in South Africa, it is the largest contributor in the agricultural sector in South Africa with a gross value of production of almost R72bn, and is also the supplier of the cheapest protein in the food chain.
The industry has experienced several challenges in the recent past, from loadshedding that resulted in the death of millions of chickens in automated commercial egg-laying facilities to the latest outbreak of avian flu and the dispute between the government and the industry about tariff protection levels and the associated dumping of imported chicken. In this blog we will look at the trends in the poultry industry in South Africa.
Benefits to consumers of industry dispute with government
The general resistance to competition that triggered a dispute between the government and the poultry association brought to light how South African poultry producers were exceeding the percentage of brine in frozen chickens. This led to the brine content being reduced to a regulated maximum acceptable of 10-15%, down from a practice of injection between 25 and 30%.
The outbreak of avian flu caused a serious kink in the supply chain of poultry and eggs, to the extent that some of the major retailers started rationing the sale of eggs to their customers and leading to an exorbitant almost doubling of egg prices in the space of a few weeks.
Media response to egg shortages
It is surprising that publicity about the impact of the outbreak and the shortage of poultry and eggs has been rather subdued in the mainstream press, while social media has responded with humour. In one Tik Tok post, a talented woman baker from Mzansi humorously shows the luxury of buying eggs in South Africa due to the shortage. Abba Morena explained that the lack of eggs is a big problem for her baking business as many of her recipes depend on this ingredient.
Adoption of advanced technologies for the benefit of the poultry industry
To respond to the above challenges, it is interesting to note that the industry is slowly integrating technology into operations to improve productivity, increase the health and welfare of poultry, reduce negative environmental impact, and enhance the quality of poultry products.
The following tools are being used:
- Wearables such as smart leg bands are used to monitor the birds’ vitals and wellbeing signs.
- Artificial intelligence is being used to analyse vast amounts of data to predict disease outbreaks and automate feeding and watering processes.
- Robots are used for collecting eggs, cleaning, and even monitoring poultry flocks, reducing the need for manual labour and improving efficiency.
- Technologies like anaerobic digesters are used to convert poultry waste into energy and fertiliser, reducing the environmental impact.
Despite the hurdles faced by the South African poultry industry, the sector remains a vital contributor to the economy and supplies affordable protein. The industry’s adoption of technology, including wearables, AI, and robotics, shows promise for enhancing productivity, animal welfare, and product quality. Market forces continue to drive innovation and competitiveness, ultimately benefiting consumers and the poultry industry alike.
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