The Impact of Loadshedding on Chicken Producers and Abattoirs


The past several months have been especially difficult for all poultry farmers and chicken abattoirs who have been struggling with severe loadshedding and the increasing input costs such as chicken feed and diesel due mainly to global events including the war in Ukraine.

The severe loadshedding has a major impact on the larger chicken producers and abattoirs as they have no choice but to run large generators to keep their modern chicken houses running because these houses are environmentally controlled and fresh air can only be supplied by large industrial fans which require continuous power. If their generator fails, they stand to lose tens of thousands of chickens within a very small amount of time. There have been some terrible examples of this in the news lately with video clips of farmers with environmentally controlled houses removing truckloads of dead chickens from their fancy cages because their generators failed, or they did not have enough diesel to run their generators. The problem is not limited to the large chicken farmers but also to the large abattoirs who have to continuously run generators to be able to slaughter and process chickens and then to be able to freeze and store their chickens. The cost of freezing these chickens and keeping them frozen can make up a significant amount of the selling price of these chickens that are sold at the likes of Pick n Pay and Shoprite. Just Shoprite alone expect to have spent 1 Billion Rand on diesel to keep their operations running in the current financial year.

At the moment large outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in North and South America mean that imports into South Africa from these countries are seriously restricted and in some cases prohibited to prevent the virus from affecting the South African poultry sector. Imports will not cover the shortage of chicken that is coming.

So what does this mean for the small farmer. From our many decades of experience with small farmers we at Alfa Chicks have learnt that if anything, that our Alfa chicken farmers are very resilient and resourceful. A boer maak n’ plan is a very good description of our small Alfa farmers and the ones who put in the effort and apply their skills always come out on top. The last major global crisis to hit was Covid and after the initial shock our small farmers stepped up and really showed their ingenuity and ability to thrive under tough conditions. The current electricity crisis is another opportunity for small farmers who are not as reliant on electricity as the larger producers and retailers. Our small farmers are excellent salesmen and have vast informal networks through which they can sell their live chickens and by combining your farming talents and our proven quality day old chicks that you will truly be able to not only survive this storm but to thrive in it too.

Now is the time for our small chicken farmers to see past the negativity that is in the news and focus on the opportunity that is presenting itself. People need to eat. Feed prices have gone up for everyone including the larger producers but small farmers are not at the mercy of Eskom. The way you farm is already a lot less energy intensive than the large farmers and there are some tricks that you can use to heat up your cages without having to rely on Eskom. Ask us at Alfa Chicks for some advice on this.

Remember the live customer market buy live chickens because they want to know what they are eating and they don’t need electricity at home to be able to keep their chicken fresh. They can slaughter it when they are ready to eat it. People can survive without electricity we must just give them food that does not need electricity to be able to store it. So small farmers it is time for you to step up again and do what you do so well. Maak n’ Plan. Persevere and never give up.