Grain Field Chicken impresses President Zuma

Grain Field Chicken impresses President Zuma

President Jacob Zuma recently paid a visit to Grain Field Chicken, an innovative abattoir that has created over 1 000 job opportunities in a rural Free State town, and liked what he saw there.

grainfield insideThe President paid a visit to Grain Field Chicken, an innovative abattoir in Free State, and he liked what he saw. The project has created more than a thousand job opportunities in an economically depressed rural town, giving people hope. It is another chapter in a good story.

For 22-year-old Seipati Sejake, the future looked gloomy. Her parents were old and unemployed, and two of her school-going siblings were unable to source school fees; she had to make a plan to ensure her family survived these hard times.

In 2012, she moved to Reitz from her rural township in Petrus Steyn, a decision which has changed her life for the better. She got a job as a poultry meat examiner at Grain Field Chicken, a chicken abattoir just outside the small rural town that is now her home. “This job came as a life saver for me. I can now provide for my family back home and two of my siblings are now assured that they can finish their primary education,” she said.

Sejake is one of more than 950 workers who are employed at Grain Field Chicken, and she was one of scores of workers who lined up to welcome President Jacob Zuma when he visited the abattoir on Friday, 28 February. Zuma was accompanied by Free State Premier Ace Magashule; Minister of Labour Mildred Oliphant and Deputy Minister of Economic Development Hlengiwe Mkhize.

After a tour of the facility, Zuma said his visit was mainly to get an update on progress at the project, which is funded by the Industrial Development Corporation, and to assess the impact that it is having on the lives of the people of Reitz. “I am truly pleased with what I have heard and seen,” he said to cheers from the crowd.

Grain Field Chicken is the result of a partnership between the IDC, the Department of Labour and the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF). Zuma said R350-million had been invested in the project, with the UIF contributing R65-million and the IDC chipping in with slightly over R23-million.

Job creation

“The joint funding has assisted the project to expand and manage its operational capacity to produce and slaughter about 760 000 chickens per week. We congratulate you on this achievement,” he said. “Most importantly, the partnership has managed to create 958 new jobs in the Reitz area. This is no doubt good news to many families in this area.”

Zuma said Grain Field Chicken was one of the job creation and job retention initiatives supported by the government. It was just another good story to tell, because the model of the deal between the IDC and Vrystaat Koöperasie Beperk (VKB), the main shareholder, addressed key government initiatives, one of them being broad-based economic empowerment. “I am further informed that the staff profile of this company is biased towards women and youth. This contributes to efforts to address the issues of youth unemployment,” he said.

Mkhize said the project proved that collaborative interventions involving the government, the private sector and communities “can facilitate job creation by unlocking the economic potential in regions such as the Free State”.

“Allow me to thank the IDC for the resilience shown in driving this project to this end. This organisation, to which the Economic Development Department remains the principal shareholder, has been pivotal towards driving the industrialisation of our economy,” she said. “The IDC also has a keen emphasis to bringing economic and social development to rural regions as well.

The IDC sourced the funds it lent to VKB from the Department of Labour’s UIF as well as from the Agro Processing Competitiveness Scheme, the deputy minister pointed out. It would “reshape the economic and social landscape of Reitz”. “We are looking at the creation of over 900 direct jobs and a further 128 indirect jobs. This project brings greater opportunities for artisans of all classes who will be contracted to manage this facility,” she said.

Agro-industries

Rian Coetzee, the head of the IDC’s agro-industries strategic business unit, said the ownership structure of Grain Field Chickens included an IDC-funded 23.1% stake held for a workers’ trust; the remainder was held by VKB.

It was the fifth largest chicken abattoir in the country and the new production capacity was expected to make a significant dent in the country’s current chicken imports, Coetzee said. “The abattoir facility is very innovative and its establishment will contribute tremendously to the industry becoming more competitive.”

IDC Free State regional manager Stoffel Meyer said the facility was one of the most important projects in which the IDC had ever been involved. It was the corporation’s flagship project in the province. “It’s extremely high impact considering the number of jobs it has created. I am very proud of this project.”

The abattoir project was originally planned for Frankfort, but because of technical issues it was brought to Reitz, Meyer explained. The IDC was assessing funding another chicken abattoir in Bloemfontein, albeit of a smaller scale than Grain Field Chicken.

VKB managing director Koos van Rensburg said Grain Field Chicken was established in January 2011 and the company ran its first test in July 2012 with just 300 chickens. Four days later, it started official production with 9 000 birds in a day. “Currently we are slaughtering 130 000 birds per day, 650 000 per week. We currently have to buy the day-old chicks to raise but if we invest in a hatchery we can breed our own. The whole project can be doubled in the future.”

Improved quality of life

In the process, VKB had created more than a thousand new job opportunities, according to Van Rensburg. “People who were dependent on government grants now have more money, a better quality of living, dignity, self-respect and hope for the future,” he said, adding that with the help of the IDC, the company had contributed towards making South Africa a better place to live.

The Grain Field Chicken story grew out of the need to provide relief to workers in difficulty, Zuma said, explaining that the IDC and UIF bond was launched in April 2010, with an initial investment of R2-billion. This resulted in the saving of 20 288 jobs and the creation of 22 263 new ones.

“The combined jobs created and saved therefore stands at 42 551. It is a remarkable story indeed for our country… The huge demand for the UIF/IDC led to the further placement of an additional R2-billion and to date the UIF has invested R4-billion.”

He said 50% of the second leg of the second bond would be invested in the six poorest provinces outside Gauteng, Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. “Currently, a maximum investment amount of R100-million per transaction has been reduced to R50-million to ensure that the UIF fund reaches as many clients and rural beneficiaries as possible.”

As the government celebrated 20 years of freedom, the story of Grain Field Chicken proved that South Africa was a much better place to live in now, the president said. “There are more opportunities that did not exist before, especially for black people. The onus is on us now to work harder together, to move South Africa forward. We must work together to develop more successful projects that will lead us to prosperity.”



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