General trading conditions improved during the first quarter of the current fiscal year (2023-2024), reported Astral Foods in a recently published trading statement.
For the three months to December 31, 2024, the firm reported a general return to normalization for its poultry business. While the earlier business conditions meant birds were kept on farm for longer periods, broiler weights and ages have now returned to previous standards. This has not only lowered feed costs, but also restored the poultry sales mix to consistent bird sizes through the company’s processing plants.
To counter the water and power supply issues experienced earlier last year, Astral Foods reported successfully implementing contingency plans.
Overall, the company reportsed that its financial position remains sound, and that gearing levels are now following a downward trend.
Avian flu impacted Astral Foods’ businesses
Over the past year, the South African poultry industry has been hit hard by avian flu. For Astral Foods, a potential shortage of chicken was averted by its program of importing hatching eggs, but the firm reports this came at considerable cost.
Meanwhile, Astral Foods’ feed business has also suffered from the disease outbreaks.
Not only was less feed required for its own poultry business as broiler rearing programs were normalized, but its own broiler breeder flock was also reduced by culling required to reduce the spread of the disease.
The firm is forecasting a return to its feed requirements during the second half of the financial year, but in-house feed volumes are expected to remain below previous levels until the end of March of 2024.
More on Astral Foods
With annual slaughterings of 290 million birds, Astral Foods is the largest poultry meat company, not only in South Africa but on the African continent, according to WATTPoultry.com’s Top Poultry Companies survey.
For the 2022-2023 fiscal year, Astral Foods reported an overall loss for the first time in the company’s history. This was attributed to a combination of adverse factors, including rising costs, disease, and power and water supply issues.
Avian flu situation eases in South Africa
Based on official notifications from the national veterinary authority, there appears to be an easing in the avian flu situation in South Africa.
Latest reports to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH) outline three further outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in commercial birds since April of last year to 139. Directly impacted have been almost 12.4 million poultry.
As well as the H5N1 virus serotype detected widely across the globe in recent times, the H7N6 variant has also been detected in South Africa since May of last year. Poultry and other commercial birds at 113 farms have tested positive for the latter virus over this period.