Chicken traders in the township feel the effect of avian influenza

Chicken traders in Phillipi, Cape Town. Photo by Bernard Chiguvare

It is no longer business as usual for people trading in chickens along Govan Mbeki Road in Philippi as a results of the avian influenza outbreak.

Philippi, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

It is no longer business as usual for people trading in chickens along Govan Mbeki Road in Philippi as a results of the avian influenza outbreak.

According to the Western Cape MEC for Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism there are 56 confirmed cases in the province. MEC Allan Winde said the number of culled birds stood at 2.7 million, of which 2.6m were layer hens.

The outbreak has negatively affected the traders of imileqwa (hard body chickens).

Some of the suppliers are on the verge of closing down their businesses or are looking for alternatives.

Christo Schultz has been in the chicken business for 16 years, buying from farmers in bulk and selling to small traders in Philippi, Nyanga, Gugulethu and other surrounding areas. He is about to close his business.

“I am surprised to hear from my colleagues who are into chicken farming that the Department of Agriculture is reluctant to attend to this outbreak. This has affected my business very much,” says Schultz.

He has five employees and will keep them.

Previously he could sell thousands of chickens per day but supply has in the wake of the cull been reduced drastically and at times his business goes for a week without any stock.

“We are busy mopping up the area. We have closed because all our chickens were affected. Only five employees are still around the farm cleaning up everything,” said a source from a big poultry farm outside Kraaifontein. It is not known what alternative business will they get into. The owner of the farm could not be reached for an interview.

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Elitsha spoke to one of the small chicken traders along Govan Mbeki road in Philippi. Some have been in the business for as long as 15 years.

“This business has been the source of money for our families. I don’t know what will be the alternative. It has not only been helping our families but [has also created a] form of employment. I am old I cannot run up and down luring potential customers to our stand,” says Thokozile Mkwamba a resident of Vukuzenzele.

According to her, on a good day she would sell close to a hundred chickens but such days are gone.

The cost of chickens from one of her suppliers has gone up while the breed of the chicken has less meat compared to previous ones.

Previously they paid R25 for a chicken but the price has since gone up to R50.

In addition according to Mkwamba, fewer customers are willing to buy from the roadside. On Monday she was still selling Friday’s order.

“Look today is Monday. We are selling Friday stock which is not our normal routine. We should be selling today’s order but we cannot do that because stock is still there,” says Mkwamba moving up and down the road in search of potential customers.

Blandina Manyengavana from Zimbabwe is also worried about her future in the chicken trade if the spread of the avian flu is not quickly arrested.

“Since I came to South Africa in 2012 I have been employed to sell chicken and this time around business has gone down very much. I am not very sure whether I will remain employed,” she says.

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The poultry industry is one of the big employers in the province.  According to Allan Winde, one major poultry company employs about 2,000 people.

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About Bernard Chiguvare 56 Articles
Originally from Zimbabwe and since 2014 I been contributing to different publications in South Africa. My area of focus as a reporter is on the rights of vulnerable communities and foreign nationals in any country.