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Pork industry in listeriosis crisis

The listeriosis crisis has plunged the country’s pork industry into an overnight crisis, with producer prices having fallen as much as 40%, resulting in millions of rands in losses for pig farmers.

One pork processing facility in KwaZulu-Natal is already understood to have closed its doors and an estimated 2 000 people have lost their jobs after the department of health identified polony from Enterprise’s Polokwane factory as the source of the listeriosis outbreak.

The Polokwane factory, Enterprise’s Germiston factory and its abattoir at Clayville have since been closed.

Johann Kotzé, CEO of the SA Pork Producers’ Organisation, said young and new pig farmers could be the first to go under if the pandemonium unleashed on the market – when Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi warned against the use of processed meat cold cuts and ready-to-eat meat products – is not turned around.

The country has about 125 commercial pig farmers and about 400 upcoming pig farmers.

Kotzé emphasised that any death is one death too many, but said the minister’s announcement had created an unintended perception that all cold cuts are unsafe.

In reality polony contains only between 0% and 2% pork, and processed products, such as viennas and pork sausages contain only between 2% and 25% pork.

Altogether about 50% of the pork industry’s production is processed and the other 50% are carcasses that are sent to the pork meat market.

Arnold Prinsloo, chairperson of the SA Meat Processors’ Association’s crisis committee, said his members had seen a 75% decrease in the demand for polony and viennas and a decrease of 50% in other pork cold cuts.

Prinsloo said the forecast losses for meat processors is estimated to be about R800m a month, excluding the losses in related industries.

“If the situation does not drastically change, we fear that about 30 smaller producers will have to close their doors, with 8 000 possible job losses in the industry.”

Kotzé said consumers would soon begin to see a considerable decrease in the price of pork products on store shelves. The decrease of 40% that producers felt within a week, would take about three to four weeks to filter through to retailers.

Last year South Africa slaughtered 2.855 million pigs, about 54 000 pigs a week.

Kotzé said Enterprise is responsible for about 12% of the total production, which is between 5 000 and 6 000 a week for pork in retail and for processing.

“The industry would have been able to deal with the decreases, but the unnecessary panic over all processed cold cuts and polony has disturbed the whole market, he said.

 Riana De Lange

City Press 

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