Poultry producer Astral Foods has recently, with the assistance of a number of national government departments, secured an emergency arrangement with the Lekwa municipality as an interim measure to stave off the water crisis affecting its Goldi poultry processing facility in Standerton, Mpumalanga.
The arrangement follows on the back of the deterioration of the municipal infrastructure of the Lekwa municipality, which led to water supply interruptions at the poultry processing plant, costing the company R85-million until the end of June.
The undersupply of water escalated to the point where the municipality was unable to supply 4 M ℓ/d of water to the facility, as required under a mutually agreed court order. The processing facility requires 5.5 M ℓ/d of water to process two-million broilers a week.
The company’s Goldi processing facility was, subsequently, forced to reduce production to 50% of the scheduled capacity, with a concurrent negative impact on workers employed at the plant, suppliers and the greater Lekwa community.
The municipality has now “undertaken” to deliver a minimum of 2 M ℓ/d of water to the Goldi processing plant through its municipal infrastructure.
The municipality has also appointed Astral as an emergency services provider and agreed to cede 3.5 M ℓ/d of their raw water allocation from the Vaal river system to Astral for a period of two years.
Following this development, Astral installed infrastructure on one of its poultry farms alongside the Vaal river in the vicinity of Standerton, enabling it to extract raw water.
This water is pumped from the river and then transported by road to a filtration plant that has been established at the company’s premises in Standerton alongside the processing plant.
This emergency arrangement is in operation while the parties are cooperating to secure a more suitable extraction point at the municipality’s water treatment works.
According to Astral commercial division MD Andy Crocker, the arrangement means that the company should have access to sufficient water to run its processing operations at the scheduled capacity in the short term, albeit at a significantly higher cost, pending a more permanent solution to this crisis.
In turn, this will allow the staff at the abattoir to return to normal working hours and shift patterns as soon as possible.
Moreover, in accordance with a High Court order previously secured by Astral, the municipality is obliged to submit a longer-term plan indicating how and when it intends repairing and improving the municipal water supply infrastructure.
The company has, over many years, actively assisted the municipality to repair and maintain the town’s water infrastructure to the benefit of the greater Standerton community, most recently replacing the essential backwash pump at the water treatment works within 24 hours of this pump failing.
Astral has, further to the costs already incurred as a result of the water crisis, pledged support in the form of equipment, expertise and labour to the value of R10-million to assist with the plan, which will be to the benefit of all water users in the town.
“I am flabbergasted that government structures are fixated with the concepts of a Fourth Industrial Revolution, and now bullet trains and megacities, while they are unable to provide basic services to existing companies such as Astral and many other established and successful businesses,” Astral CEO Chris Schutte lamented, adding that, to heed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to buy locally produced products, companies like Astral need to be able to consistently produce locally in a conducive and reliable municipal environment.Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online