Chickens May Starve If Power Cut, South African Company Warns

  • Astral Foods says 11.5 million chickens potentially affected
  • Power utility Eskom plans supply cuts over municipal debt

Millions of chickens owned by Astral Foods Ltd. will starve if planned power cuts to the South African poultry producer’s largest facility go ahead, the company warned on Thursday.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. will interrupt supplies to the Lekwa municipality starting Jan. 23 after local authorities failed to settle outstanding electricity bills, Astral said in an e-mailed statement, citing a letter from the state-owned utility. Eskom may cut supplies “entirely and indefinitely” at a future date, it said. Astral has its largest feed-milling and poultry-processing operations in the area, about 160 kilometers (99 miles) south west of Johannesburg.

“Should permanent power cuts be implemented as outlined by Eskom in their correspondence, Astral will be left with 11.5 million chickens that they will not be able to feed on a daily basis,” the company said. “The animal welfare impact will be catastrophic leading to unprecedented large-scale euthanasia of the birds.”

Eskom didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The utility is seeking to recoup more than 10 billion rand ($739 million) in overdue payments by South African municipalities, the Fin24 website reported on Jan. 4, citing an affidavit by the power company.

Astral is the largest client of Lekwa municipality and all its bills are up to date, the poultry company said.

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