By Tom Woolman
Tom Woolman studied at Harper Adams and spent three years as a farm manager at PD Hook before joining Faccenda as a breeder area manager. There he was then promoted to Head of Breeding at Avara Foods before recently setting up his own consultancy, Cadenza Management Services.
There are plenty of helpings of doom and gloom around at the moment. At the recent Northern Broiler conference Aimee Mahony opened by promising not to use the words ‘unprecedented’ and ‘challenges’ too much.
However, there is some sense of perspective to be gained from looking at others’ situations.
Over the past few weeks, I have been working on a project researching the South African poultry industry and I have been quite staggered by some of the problems they are facing.
The South African industry has many similarities to ours. In terms of broiler production, they produce very similar levels, with just over a billion broilers slaughtered every year. The national laying flock stands at 26 million birds.
Although Avian Influenza is not currently a serious problem for their industry, they are being plagued by what is tactfully called ‘load shedding’, a euphemism for rolling power cuts.
While generators are available, the cost and disruption to mills and factories has been immense, with some part of the country getting only eight hours of electricity a day.
Many crops including maize and soya rely on irrigation in South Africa, and the lack of electricity is expected to put pressure on crop yields and prices.
In a misguided attempt to improve food security, the government is also allowing huge amounts of poultry products to be dumped on the South African market from Brazil, Thailand and the EU.
South Africa enjoys tariff free access to many worldwide markets but has not got the regulatory infrastructure in place to export. Much of this down to state veterinary resources.
A collaborative Poultry Master Plan was devised between industry and government in 2019 to growth and strengthen the industry, but the government have effectively walked away from it since signing.
On top of this the economy is in a freefall accelerated by the electricity crisis. Inflation is 7% and rising, and unemployment sits around 33%.
I suppose some people will be reading this and thinking 33% unemployment sounds quite attractive, at least then we could find some labour for our farms and factories. Well, you can’t always have your cake and eat it, that’s for sure.