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Nothing ‘fowl’ about poultry farming

While the latest Agbiz/Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) agribusiness confidence index shows a small decline in the third quarter of this year, agriculture remains one of the biggest contributors to South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP).

According to the index, there are a number of factors that contributed to the declining confidence in the third quarter, including the drought in the Western Cape, which has one of the biggest agricultural industries in the country. Relatively lower global demand for maize exports has also been a key driver of the decline in sentiment.

Despite these unfavourable conditions, the agricultural sector remains one of the most resilient and profitable business sectors in South Africa. Its importance to the economy cannot be overstated, especially as a job creator. In reality however, only the surface has been scratched in terms of its real potential in creating job opportunities and sparking economic activity.

The recent outbreak of bird flu in certain parts of the country has exacerbated the situation as it threatens not only jobs in the poultry industry but also the export market. It is estimated that around 16 million chickens are slaughtered each week specifically for meat production. For many South Africans, chickens are their biggest source of protein and this is not even taking into account an important by-product that they provide, eggs.

Just as the poultry industry has weathered many storms before and survived, it will survive the latest challenge. The agricultural sector as a whole is not explored enough and its benefits are far greater than the costs of entering it. And there are many opportunities in the sector for young aspiring or emerging farmers, particularly in poultry farming.

Of all meat products that people consume on a daily basis, chickens are by far the most consumed. More women and young people in particular, need to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. They need to learn the basics of the sector and start their own farms, which can only bear great results for them and the economy of South Africa.

Like any other business of course, prospective poultry farmers need to arm themselves with the right information before they even begin. For one, when getting into poultry farming it’s important for a person to know and understand that they don’t just go out and say they want to start a poultry farm and then buy 1000 chickens because they can afford to. An aspirant farmer needs to ensure that they understand the field first and foremost.

One has to consider all the other factors including overheads like feed, labour, water, lights, medication etc. It is important to calculate how much you’ll need for all those elements before you even start with your project. It is wise to heed the age-old business advice to always be on the lookout for ways to reduce costs and maximise profits; just as it is important to be able to read and correctly interpret your financial statements.

Learning the basics of financial management cannot be overemphasised as many farmers fail to make it because while they may have the knack for farming, they stumble due to their lack of financial acumen. Being a brilliant farmer on its own is not enough and you need to learn the basic principles of running a business. It is crucial to be skilled in cash flow management, budgeting, cost-saving, projections etc.

There is an abundance of opportunities in the agricultural sector, especially for youth. The sector has its own challenges and when people get into it without first arming themselves with the necessary training and information, they make it more difficult for themselves. Some of the basics of this industry that need to be covered are broiler and layer management, how to reduce mortality as well as learning how to feed the chickens a healthy and balanced diet.

The great thing about this farming sector is that you can and it is always ideal to start small, with two chickens for instance, and build your way up. Starting small should never translate to thinking small though, so even if one starts at a small scale, they need to already think like a big farmer. With more aspiring farmers taking the plunge and chasing after their dreams, only good things can happen to them and the country’s economy.

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