A new chicken abattoir in Reitz, Free State, holds the promise of giving workers a sizable stake in the company in the future.
The Grain Fields Chickens Abattoir is a joint venture between Agribusiness VKB, which owns 76.9 per cent of the business, and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC), which owns 23.1 per cent.
The IDC, a government agency that is under the supervision of the Economic Development Department, financed the abattoir to the tune of R154 million.
The IDC’s shares in the abattoir will eventually be transferred to a workers’ trust to benefit the employees of Grain Fields Chickens.
Sas Kasselman, the managing director of Grain Fields Chickens, explained that the abattoir buys one-day-old chicks.
Contract growers then grow these chickens for 34 days and the abattoir then slaughters them.
“We are currently slaughtering 65 000 chickens per day, but the eventual capacity of the abattoir will go to 200 000 per day,” Kasselman said.
He added the idea for the abattoir was prompted by the abundance of maize and soya beans produced in the area.
“We produce 500 000 tons of maize 100 000 tons of soya beans in our area annually. Some 60 per cent of chicken feed is maize and 18 per cent is soya,” Kasselman explained.
With the demand for chicken growing, it was decided to open the abattoir since the maize and soya beans needed for broiler feed was easily available.
Soya oil cake and maize are the primary ingredients for broiler feed used by Grain Fields Chickens accredited broiler producers.
The abattoir employs 545 people, contract growers employ about 70 more, the animal feed factory provides work for 35 people, logistics 44 people and the Soya Oil Crush 56.
“In total about 800 new jobs have been created through the three projects, namely the abattoir, the feed mill at Vrede and the Soya Oil Crush at Villiers.”
Kasselman said there were enormous benefits for the province in channelling maize towards broiler production.
“By channelling maize and soya oil cake through broilers, we create a higher local demand, which will stimulate production and further processing the maize and soya oil cake through feed into broilers. This has enabled us to create jobs in rural areas and add the value at source,” he said.
Rian Coetzee, head of agro-industries at the IDC, explained that members of the workers’ trust would be the black workers of Grain Fields Chickens and that they would benefit from the income.
The IDC has been involved with the project since the early stages in 2010.
Coetzee said that the IDC used its own funds for the project and the money had come the Unemployment Insurance Fund and Agro- processing Competitiveness Fund.
Projects like these played a crucial role in rural development of South Africa, he added. Godfrey Mngomezulu, production manager at Grain Fields Chickens and one of the beneficiaries, said he anticipated that the company would pay back the IDC loan in about six years.
Mngomezulu said workers were happy with the arrangement with the IDC.
“People here are happy to have a job. Many used to work seasonally on farms but now they have a stable job.”
He added that the company encouraged workers to improve their lives and that of their children.
“We want them to build a future for their children. We encourage them to take their kids back to school. They should use the money they earn to provide for their families. At work the company provides food,” Mngomezulu explained. Speaking at the launch of the abattoir, MEC of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Free State Mosebenzi Zwane the project was in line with Mohoma Mobung - a mega public and private partnership business concept aimed at uplifting rural communities by increasing agricultural production.
Zwane encouraged Agribusiness VKB to work towards increasing the shareholding of black people in the company.