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Whole chicken in the UK now costs about £12 (about R236). I note that Malaysia has banned chicken exports, and that previous poultry growth rates there are becoming difficult due to feed shortages.

Thankfully, SA whole birds are still under R100, although prices will rise as rising feed costs filter through. Local demand is likely to drop in response though. If prices were to rise to UK heights, the extended monthly R350 Covid-19 grant would only buy 1.5 chickens.

Consumers will turn to polonies for protein, a move that is already happening  given the space now occupied by such products in supermarkets. Their main ingredient is mechanically deboned meat, the pricing of which will be affected by increased global demand and local exchange rates. Currently SA produces hardly any mechanically deboned meat.

Given the circumstances it is not premature to encourage the production of oryctolagus cuniculus, the European rabbit. Kenya has been working on this and there have been viability studies by SA universities, but it would appear that little is actually happening  on the ground.

Domestic rabbit farming is feasible as their main food is grass, of which there is a significant supply on roadside verges and domestic lawns. Currently this water-expensive “crop” is harvested at some cost only to be dumped in landfills.

As the Australians found, in ideal conditions rabbits breed quickly and, unlike chickens, make little noise or mess. Domestic rabbit farming should be encouraged as an alternative to chicken.

James Cunningham
Camps Bay

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