SABS, animal welfare and cage sizes
February was a good month for farmers as we welcomed significant amounts of rains, much to the farmers’ relief. The impact of the fall army worm was also less than initially feared, meaning that most of the maize crop is safe. It is hoped that these rains will translate to easing, at least to some effect, the price of maize and therefore that of feed. With nature taken care of, the industry can focus its energy on its sustainability and longevity.
On Friday 3 March 2017, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Honourable Senzeni Zokwana, hosted a service delivery forum. The Minister uses this as a platform where industries can engage the Minister on various issues and challenges the industries face. In turn, the
industries take the opportunity to provide feedback to the Minister on the initiatives they are taking to grow the agriculture sector and also how they plan to contribute towards the 1 million additional jobs in agriculture by 2030. The grain, fruit, forestry and sugar industries had the opportunity to present their transformation initiatives. It would seem that transformation in these industries is not left to individual organisations, but rather they have programmes that are funded by the industry and where government money is used to supplement industry’s contributions.
While listening to the presentation, it dawned on me that in the poultry industry, transformation is still left to the individual organisations to transform their own entities. At that moment, one tried to think of areas where the poultry industry had championed such transformation initiatives, and realised that transformation to a large extent is left in the hands of individual companies. It became apparent that even though there is a plan, it requires industry buy-in and for the industry to channel these efforts via the association to ensure that the synergies are optimised and meaningful progress can be demonstrated.
There are many opportunities to access funds that government has set aside for transformation. To access such funds, the industry needs to have a plan that seeks to contribute towards government’s objectives of seeing the successful introduction of black industrialists, as well as more participation by black people in the broiler and egg value chains.
It is paramount that if producers are looking at entering into transformation transactions, SAPA is engaged to assist in finding the right partners. SAPA can be instrumental in identifying partners who are already involved in the business and looking to grow their operations. We have government’s support and commitment; let us use it to enhance the industry and further increase the industry’s contribution to GDP.
Establishment of Provincial Organisations
In November, SAPA held the first provincial meeting in KZN where 120 farmers attended. In February, the second meeting was held in Gauteng where 30 farmers were present. The next meeting will be held in the North West on 24 March 2017. SAPA has been invited to a poultry farmers meeting in Sikhukhune, where more engagements will be held on how SAPA and the producers can assist struggling farmers who are finding it hard to stay afloat during these very difficult and turbulent times. It is our hope that there will still be an industry to speak of when the dust settles.
Gauteng processing facility project
The Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (GDARD) and SAPA entered into a Memorandum of Understating (MOU) to establish an abattoir for a group of black farmers in Gauteng and the North West. The project has since been adapted and will now be a processing and marketing facility. The site has been secured at Tshwane Market. Thanks to the support of Astral and Country Bird Holdings, the plans have been finalised and the material has been ordered through Swift and JF Equipment who will work together to install the processing line and the cold storage facilities. SAPA plays the critical role of coordinating the activities and engaging the experts to ensure that the facility that is delivered will be of the highest standard and will meet all the quality required by the customers. A company will be appointed to manage the project and also deliver the completed product to the beneficiaries. It is an exciting venture for SAPA and the partners GDARD who have entrusted SAPA with the project together with the management of the funds that will bring it to fruition.
Egg levy application
As mentioned previously, SAPA is in the process of applying for a levy for eggs. One of the requirements to qualify for a levy is that the said levy must be supported by producers of at least 66% of the product for which the levy is being sought. In the case of eggs, with an estimated 24 million plus hens, SAPA needs the support of members accounting for 15.8 million hens. In response to the
letter sent to members, SAPA has received support from producers accounting for 4 million hens. This figure is less than 20% of the national flock. It will be very difficult to convince the NAMC to publish a gazette for a levy that is supported only by 25% of producers. We again urge you to consider supporting this so that all producers can contribute and ease the burden that is currently born by a few producers. Should SAPA be unsuccessful in the attempt to secure a levy, then it will be left with no choice but to dissolve the Egg Organisation.
Introduction of inspection fees by DAFF
The Government Gazette No. 402621, published on 17 February 2017 introduces the appointment of the Agency For Food Safety as the DAFF appointed assignee to inspect abattoirs, production and packaging plants under the Agriculture Product Standards Act No. 119 of 1990. The inspections will be conducted at a fee to the farmer or owner. The proposed inspection fees are R0.0015 per egg (1.8 cents per dozen) at production and packaging plants and R0.015 per carcass at abattoirs, production and packaging plants. The notice further stipulates rates per hour for additional sites and well as travel time costs. Laboratory costs will also be passed on to the farmer or owner. Similar notices have been published for other meats, vegetables, fruit and other commodities. The affected parties have until 17 March 2017 to submit comments. Most commodities have already sought legal opinions as to the legality of the regulations, particularly since they were published without any stakeholder consultation. SAPA has collected comments from the producers and these will be submitted to DAFF. The intention is to stop DAFF from putting the burden of inspections on the producers who are already struggling to stay afloat.
Code of Practice and SABS Welfare Standards
The revision of the SAPA COP is underway as reported previously. The work has been completed and it is now going to be presented to the members at the AGM for adoption. I wish to draw your attention to the issue of the cage sizes, which will have a significant financial implications. I will take this opportunity to provide some background as to how SAPA got involved with the SABS Welfare Standards writing team.
In 2015, we received an invitation from SABS to participate in the standards writing process for poultry. This was after they had concluded writing standards for dairy, pigs and transportation of animals. It was during this same time that SAPA decided to revise the COPS, as the current versions were approved in 2012. It was then agreed in the Broiler and Egg Organisations that Alan would be best suited to revise the COPS, a decision that was endorsed by the board.
With regards to SABS, SAPA had the option not to take part in the process, but rather to focus on the revision of the COPS. This was communicated to SABS, with the knowledge that SABS would not be able to adopt the standards without industry participation. However, as the process ensued, it was decided again in the organisation committees to participate in the SABS process in order to influence what is ultimately contained in the final standards. I was then mandated to represent SAPA in the process. Members of SAPA were approached by members of the SABS Welfare group to participate. A letter also went out to all members encouraging them to send representatives to participate in the SABS process.
The SAPA COPS were used as the source documents. After a few meetings, it was decided with participation of industry members that using 3 source documents was making the process difficult. A request was submitted to SAPA to rather combine the documents into one in order to assist. The SABS process was suspended to allow for the consolidation to happen - all of this in consultation with the COP committee’s involvement. The process of revising the COPS was also on the go with Alan and the COP committee sourcing inputs from the industry as the process developed. This was challenging as most industry members were not participating in the process.
It is important to note that SABS is relying on industry to develop standards and that these will not be developed without industry participation.
For this reason the SABS has put the process on hold until the Avi Africa congress, when the changes will be agreed by the industry and the revised COPS adopted. SABS will only resume our process after Congress, after which SAPA will still have to get input from affected stakeholders before finalising such standards. Once written, the producers will pay a fee to be able to use the standards.
The issue of cage sizes, age at debeaking, and long distance transportation are of great interest in welfare circles. The COP committee suggested increasing the bird space for hens in production from 450 cm² to 550 cm² in line with the move made by some countries. All these are recommendations and industry can reject them. We do however have to offer alternative suggestions on how we wish to proceed. It is very likely that the market would ultimately be the driver of the changes and that producers will need to comply in order to stay in business. It is difficult to guess when this will happen as most South African currently just need food they can afford.
SAPA is staying very close to the process to ensure the voice of the producers is heard. SABS value the industry’s input in the process and hence the use of our COP as the source document. Like SAPA, SABS and the NSPCA are also participating in the OIE Welfare groups, so it is likely their actions will be greatly influenced by the OIE processes. We also believe that the SABS standards will be used by DAFF to write regulations on welfare (if they ever get around to it). Regulations are not ideal as they are not as flexible as the standards. The standards are also easier to change than regulations.
SAPA has always acted in the interest of the producer. It is important to state at this point that these are recommendations from the COP committees and that you, as producers, have the final say on whether they are adopted or rejected.¡