With an outbreak of Listeriosis having already created panic in both the South African and Namibian food chain, the local small poultry industry has also pleaded with immigration to maintain tight control of the borders against a possible influenza out break from SA.
The local poultry producers’ association is a small grouping of farmers fighting for survival against rival foreign products and is only managed to keep afloat by four commercial farmers and a handful of small scale farmers.
At a state-of-the-industry session held in the capital last week, one of the association’s front-persons, James Roux, said if they can’t be protected chances of retrenching remain high, a situation they do not want to see since unemployment has become rampant.
“We would like government to maintain border control and also that we can have self-sustainability. If we open the borders that will be affected. Border control should be tightened; no chicken products may enter the country so that we may produce locally,” said Roux.
There is also a fear that the influenza situation in SA will further escalate.
“In Europe the first year that influenza broke out they had 2 000 cases, that was marginal, the year after it was like 10 000 cases. So we foresee in South Africa this coming year the influenza will be much more. Influenza has been in SA since last year June, that’s why the borders are closed. They were opened in a small duration of time and they are closed again,” Roux added.
If hell breaks lose, the farmers have so much to lose besides labour.
“We sit with huge amounts of money. Some where borrowed, some we use our own capital, we sold stuff to get that capital to put up these facilities and we employ more people. So if the border is open again, we will have to retrench again. So it will have a negative impact.”
“In a short time-span, we set up these facilities and we want government to see we are, as poultry producers or poultry association, striving to the vision that they set up. So we are going with them and we want their support,” he explained.
Speaking on the overall state of the industry, Roux said despite business moving, all is not as rosy as it looks.
“We are struggling, we are importing from abroad, from Belgium, we are importing from Zambia that’s currently open, so it’s a problem. But we are managing. We are trying to keep this boat afloat. As I said, we are four big commercial farmers and are running this whole thing. We are writing letters and getting together frequently to get the organisation afloat,” he said
Meanwhile, the local industry players have gotten permission to import fertilized eggs on a strict basis from ear-marked farms in Zambia.
But the need to be self-sufficient and leverage on technology and innovation remains paramount.