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Photo Reuters

SA’s Astral Foods warns of social unrest

Biggest chicken producer
South Africa is facing increased threats to its food security and intensifying poverty.
Nick Wilson
Astral Foods has warned South FArica is likely to experience political instability and further policy uncertainty in the lead up to the 2024 elections, with the government "asleep at the well" as infrastructure deteriorates and municipal service delivery fails.

Reporting a crash in its half-year to end March on Monday, South Africa's biggest chicken producer also warned the country is facing increased threats to its food security and intensifying poverty.

The company, valued at over R7 billion on the JSE, suffered an 89% crash in continuing profits to R62 million in its six months to end March, hit R741 million on load shedding costs and a R705 million increase in working capital requirements.

It also declared no dividend, even though revenue rose about 6% to almost R10 billion - driven by higher prices - in an "extremely trying operational environment".

In its outlook statement, it said was concerned that "in the lead up to the 2024 national elections a period of instability is expected, as well as both policy uncertainty and poor service delivery from the government".

It said the macro-economic crisis with "negligible to no economic growth" was "hampering any prospects for job creation with disposable income under severe pressure as the cost-of-living-crisis deepens and recession looms large".

At the same time, "failing infrastructure and the lack of service of delivery" from a "government that is asleep at the wheel" was "placing a massive cost burden on businesses and the consumer alike".

It also flagged the failure of state-owned enterprises such as Eskom and Transnet as important contributing factors in the deterioration of agricultural sector in SA.

Astral said the "continuous costly disruptions" to agri-processing businesses and integrated food production value chains had left "South Africa with deepening hunger and poverty levels, especially amongst the most vulnerable of communities and an even greater threat to food security is plausible."

At an operational level, the company saw a mixed performance, with its poultry division, especially its broiler operations, seeing "major production disruptions caused by load shedding, decimating all economy of scale benefits and operational efficiencies".

As a result, the poultry division swung into a loss of R283 million from a R466 million profit in the same period last year, with Astral adding this was "exacerbated by high feed input costs for the period under review".-Fin24


Allgemeine Zeitung 2023-05-28

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