Expanding domestic production and access to lucrative export destinations is a key goal of South Africa’s Poultry Sector Master Plan.[1] However, the domestic industry faces a number of challenges that lead to production shortfalls and hinder its export potential. This blog aims to shed light on the challenges faced by the domestic poultry sector and provides actionable recommendations to overcome these obstacles.

Importance of Poultry

South Africa boasts a significant poultry meat consumption rate, ranking 9th globally according to OECD data from 2022.[2] South Africans have a strong preference for poultry, consuming nearly 40kg per capita in the 2020/21 period.[3] This is more than double the amount of beef and veal, the second-most consumed meat category. Chicken meat is the topmost food expenditure item for most South Africans, and one of only two meat protein sources included the top 10 food expenditure items for the poorest socioeconomic group.[4] Despite the substantial demand for poultry meat in South Africa, a consistent gap exists between production and consumption levels.[5] Over the years, local poultry production has fallen short of meeting consumption demands, resulting in a reliance on imports – South Africa is a net importer of chicken meat by a vast margin. To make matters worse, projections indicate a widening gap between the growth of domestic production and consumption.[6]  This gap will likely be filled by imports until a robust domestic poultry industry is developed.

Constraints facing the growth of domestic production

The inability to meet local demand, boost exports, and grow the domestic industry is due to multifaceted challenges.[7] High feed expenses, accounting for a significant portion of total costs, impose a considerable burden on local poultry producers.[8] The industry’s relatively small-scale production makes it vulnerable to competition from exporting nations that benefit from economies of scale. Additionally, regulatory limitations on brining have sparked concerns about increasing prices, reducing the industry’s size, and affecting the poultry value chain.[9] Most recently, the South African poultry sector has had to contend with outbreaks of avian influenza, persistent load-shedding, and the situation in Ukraine – contributing to higher input costs, and constrained production.[10]

Barriers to exports

Even when production does occur, South African exporters face significant difficulty in accessing lucrative markets. For example, the country’s exports cannot enter the EU due to its non-compliance with the health and safety standards. As a result, South Africa has strategically redirected its exports into Africa.[11] However, persistent Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs) remain a major source of frustration for exporters.[12] These erode competitiveness and impose exorbitant costs. Among the NTBs faced by exporters are mandatory inspections, distinct national standards, overlapping regulatory responsibilities, and discriminatory enforcement of technical regulations targeting imported goods. Within the country, poor transport infrastructure has hindered the global competitiveness of domestic agriculture.[13]

Conclusion and recommendations

The growth of domestic production and expansion into lucrative export markets are constrained by high feed costs, limited economies of scale, poor infrastructure, and barriers to accessing international markets. Decisive action is needed to unlock the potential of South Africa’s poultry industry and overcome its impediments.

To address these challenges, the following recommendations are offered:

  • Provide support for local producers by addressing high feed costs through subsidies or other incentives.
  • Enhance efficiency through innovative technologies, as well as training and support.
  • Invest in infrastructure, particularly transport and electricity.
  • Address export barriers through constructive dialogues with trading partners.
  • Strengthen disease control measures.
  • Address non-compliance issues to gain access to lucrative export markets, such as the EU.

By implementing these recommendations, South Africa can unlock the potential of its poultry industry, improve domestic production, and expand into international markets. This will contribute to economic development, job creation, and a stable and secure poultry supply that meets domestic consumption requirements.

[1] The South African Poultry Sector Master Plan, 2019.

[2] OECD Data, Meat consumption, https://data.oecd.org/agroutput/meat-consumption.htm.

[3] Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), Abstract of Agricultural Statistics 2022.

[4] Living Conditions Survey by Stats SA, cited in Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) COVID-19 Brief 2 – How South Africans spend their food budgets.

[5] Op. Cit. DALRRD, Abstract.

[6] BFAP, Baseline: Agricultural Outlook (2022-2031), https://baseline.bfap.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/BFAP-BASELINE-2022-ONLINE-Final.pdf.

[7] Op. Cit. Poultry Sector Master Plan.

[8] Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry Engagement with stakeholders, Implementation of the South African Poultry Master Plan, Tuesday, 29 November 2022,  http://www.thedtic.gov.za/wp-content/uploads/Poultry-Master-Plan.pdf.

[9] News24, Chicken brining rules will devastate SA, poultry body warns, 4 May 2016, https://www.news24.com/fin24/chicken-brining-rules-will-devastate-sa-poultry-body-warns-20160504.

[10] Nicole McCain, Avian flu detected at five Western Cape poultry farms, News24, 31 May 2023, https://www.news24.com/news24/southafrica/news/avian-flu-detected-at-five-western-cape-poultry-arms-20230531; Karl Gernetzky, Quantum had to kill 420 000 chickens due to bird flu, warns of egg crunch in WCape, News24, 9 May 2023, https://www.news24.com/fin24/companies/quantum-had-to-kill-420-000-chickens-due-to-bird-flu-warns-of-egg-crunch-20230509; Given Majola, This is how fat chickens and load shedding is putting SA’s poultry value chain under pressure, IOL, 17 March 2023, https://www.iol.co.za/business-report/economy/this-is-how-fat-chickens-and-load-shedding-is-putting-sas-poultry-value-chain-under-pressure-4f205feb-12cd-42de-b1ab-20e21189c7e4#:~:text=%E2%80%9CLoad%20shedding%20is%20a%20factor,and%20not%20in%20the%20marketplace; Yogashen Pillay, Global affairs affect prices of poultry products in South Africa, IOL, 4 March 2022, https://www.iol.co.za/mercury/news/global-affairs-affect-prices-of-poultry-products-in-south-africa-dd74705b-f040-4212-adad-662e2009e468#:~:text=DURBAN%20%2D%20THE%20SA%20Poultry%20Association,higher%20prices%20for%20poultry%20products.

[11] Thabile Nkunjana, Phathisisa Thobindlala and Khodani Madula, Exploring opportunities of various agricultural commodities in the recently signed African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement: An analysis of South Africa’s poultry export market, NAMC, Trade Probe Issue 90, August 2022, https://www.namc.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Trade-Probe-Issue-90.pdf. 

[12] Willemien Viljoen, Non-tariff barriers frustrating South African agricultural exports, TRALAC, 2015, https://www.tralac.org/discussions/article/8224-non-tariff-barriers-frustrating-south-african-agricultural-exports.html.

[13] Fair Play, Poor transport infrastructure holds agriculture back, 20 October 2022, https://fairplaymovement.org/poor-transport-infrastructure-holds-agriculture-back/.