Rainbow Chicken opens new plant in KZN

One of South Africa’s largest poultry producers, Rainbow Chicken, marked its 60th anniversary by opening a new plant in Hammarsdale near Durban on Monday. This signals the intention to bring Rainbow’s production volumes back to pre-2017 levels and return the plant facility to full operating capacity.

Rainbow Chicken opens new plant in KZN
Department of Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrhaim Patel is given a tour of the facility by Rainbow managing director Marthinus Stander.
Photo: Department of Trade, Industry and Competition
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Rainbow, owned by RCL Foods, had been forced to close half of the Hammarsdale operation, retrenching approximately 1 350 workers, due to cheap chicken imports dominating the sector.

According to the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the opening of the plant confirms the success of several aspects of the Poultry Sector Master Plan, including investment, job creation, poultry exports, and the establishment of black contract growers.

Rainbow has invested R220 million in their Hammarsdale abattoir, and 78 new contract grower houses are being constructed at an investment by the growers of another R400 million.

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Rainbow said in a statement: “In 2017, when we removed one shift at Hammarsdale as a result of dumping, roughly 1 350 employees were retrenched. With the Rainbow Hammarsdale expansion, we have reinstated roughly 750 jobs, with an additional 100 jobs to be initiated by June 2024. This comprehensive initiative encompasses an intricate overhaul of the entire supply and production chain within the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) region, spanning from farms, hatchery operations to processing facilities.”

Key project components include the construction of 120 incremental broiler houses, enhancements to the hatchery, the installation of air-cooling systems and equipment at the processing facility, and the construction of state-of-the-art gyro-type and box freezers, the company said.

Attending the opening of the plant were Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development Minister Thoko Didiza, Trade, Industry and Competition Minister Ebrahim Patel, KZN Agriculture and Rural Development MEC Super Zuma, eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, South African Poultry Association general manager Izaak Breitenbach, and contract growers and farmers.

In his keynote address, Patel said: “Government put in place a safeguard action on poultry imports from some European countries, and what happened next was the extraordinary story of a local industry moving from decline to growth.”

He said a combined effort was needed to transform the poultry industry in South Africa, and so the master plan was born.

Rainbow managing director Marthinus Stander said the master plan was a visionary blueprint and was about creating capacity, stimulating demand for chicken, growing exports, boosting transformation and bringing in farmers and other players that were previously excluded.

Didiza said: “Poultry is the single biggest industry in the livestock subsector, worth R54 billion in 2022 and employing more than 100 000 people. The review of industry data indicates that there has been good performance in terms of investments, trade protection, local production growth, and jobs created.

This success must be celebrated.”Breitenbach said: “The poultry industry in South Africa started at this very plant in Hammarsdale. Despite having several challenges, such as high raw material costs and load-shedding, they still managed to make a huge investment that will stimulate economic growth for the industry, especially in KZN.”