Mzansi’s agricultural sector is still lamenting the “disappointing'” State of the Nation Address (Sona) delivered by President Cyril Ramaphosa. According to FairPlay founder, Francois Baird, the government, once again missed an opportunity to help the poultry farmers who are in big trouble.
As far as FairPlay is concerned, Ramaphosa has failed South Africa’s poultry producers, particularly small-scale farmers, by not addressing their needs in his Sona.
The industry, Baird said, “is being hammered by a perfect storm of rising feed costs, failing infrastructure such as water supply and daily power outages. Hugely higher electricity prices will hit them in a few months’ time when they are at their weakest.”
Ramaphosa’s four key misses
Baird welcomed relief such as input vouchers for small-scale farmers and the possibility of upgrades for rural road and water services.
However, he said, Ramaphosa had let the poultry industry down in four important areas:
- He could have announced tax relief for farmers who need to buy diesel to generate their own electricity. Because of Eskom’s failings, farmers are spending millions a day to keep their operations going and their workers in employment.
- The President could have enforced his request to Eskom to delay or moderate the planned 18.6% price increase from April this year.
- Ramphosa could have instructed the Treasury to revisit the request from FairPlay and poultry producers to remove the 15% value-added tax from some chicken portions. VAT-free chicken, particularly the frozen packs known as IQF (individually quick frozen) portions, would bring immediate relief to low-income households relying on chicken for their meat protein.
- He could have announced an emergency meeting of the poultry master plan’s executive oversight committee for the government and the poultry industry to draw up a crisis plan.
Will the state of disaster mean anything?
Baird said it remains to be seen whether the state of disaster to combat the electricity crisis brings any relief to poultry producers, both large and small, who need a 24-hour electricity supply.
The poultry industry – the backbone of food security in South Africa – supplies 66% of the meat consumed in South Africa, far more than beef, pork or lamb. Chicken is popular and affordable, particularly for poor people struggling with rising food prices.
“Yet poultry farmers, especially small chicken farmers, are in dire straits and looking to the government for help. But they got little or nothing,” Baird said.
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