T he critical importance of an industry voice
It is unbelievable that we are already in the middle of 2017, with half of the year almost gone. Aviafrica is also upon us, another signal that the year is flying past. We are hoping that this year will see the egg industry getting back to form and making its way to its previous, but better, self. Producers are still grappling with a lot of issues and SAPA is committed to working together to find solution that assists producers to focus on farming. These are some of the issues being grappled with.
The egg market
The previous year was very challenging for egg producers. Farmers saw feed price increases of a minimum of R1000 per ton between January and August 2016 due to the drought. At the same time, between January and April 2016, egg prices dropped substantially, the result of which is excess eggs on the market. It was very difficult for farmers to cope with the high feed prices and low market prices for eggs. Farmers were unable to recover any of the losses suffered as a result of increases in the price of feed. This hardship resulted in the exit of many small scale farmers - those with between 5 000 and 40 000 hen capacity. Some farmers depleted their flocks early, moving the average depletion age from 74.8 weeks in 2015 to 71.8 weeks in 2016.
These factors have resulted in a shortage of eggs. Consumers can expect an increase in egg prices due to the shortage of eggs on the market. Indications are that prices are likely to increase. This scenario is likely to persist while farmers attempt to increase their production to meet market demand.
DAFF appointed inspections assignees
SAPA has been engaging on behalf of its members with the Department of Agriculture Forestry Fisheries (DAFF) appointed assignees who are set to perform quality inspections on behalf of the department. In line with the provisions of the Agriculture Product Standards Act No. 119 of 1990, DAFF appointed assignees to conduct inspection on its behalf. The Agency for Food Safety and Quality (AFSQ) has been appointed as the assignee for poultry meat and eggs. The gazetted fees are 1,8 cents per dozen eggs. It is not clear yet whether this is per eggs produced or inspected. The validity of the rates was from 1 March 2017.
There were lots of objections from the industry with regard to the fees, proposed billing, lack of clarity on the frequency of inspections, inspection points, as well as the sampling protocol. Other concerns were around the responsibilities of producers and retailers should the inspections be carried out at retailer level. A follow up meeting was held on 20 April 2017, where revised fees were communicated. The revised fee went down from 1,8 cents to 1,2 cents per dozen.
There were still concerns as to how the fee was calculated, since by their own admission, AFSQ would not get to all the sites in month one and two, with maybe 100% of the sites probably only reached by month three. The assignee projected they would be invoicing the pack stations on annual production. This simply means that producers would be billed for entire production whether they are inspected or not. It also seemed that the proposed rates were much higher than what producers are able to afford.
SAPA organised another meeting with the assignee where all egg producers were invited. At this meeting, producers raised their concerns but most had to do with the proposed fees. It was agreed at that meeting that the assignee would relook the fees and see where savings would be possible. SAPA wrote a letter to DAFF requesting that a dispensation be granted until such time that the concerns raised are resolved. This will allow industry to engage with the assignee and DAFF to look at the sampling and establish the minimum required visits for the assignee to fulfil its mandate.
Cage size increases proposals
For the last while, egg producers have been been engaged on the issue of cage sizes. There is a discussion on the table with regard to increasing the cage sizes from 450cm² per bird to 550cm² per bird. SAPA is proposing a dialogue with producers to establish the producers’ standpoint on the issue. SAPA will then endeavour to communicate the producers’ wishes to the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and the National Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NSPCA) as they develop the new welfare standards for poultry. The first meeting will be held in the Western Cape on 25 May 2017; the second in Gauteng; and the third in Kwazulu-natal. A resolution will then be passed at congress during Aviafrica in June 2017. SAPA will only carry out the wishes of its members and will therefore endeavour to fulfil the members’ instructions. We invite you to be part of this process and engage with us so we can craft a way forward together.