Chicken abattoir broke

Chicken abattoir broke

MASERU – A FINANCIAL crisis affecting Lesotho’s biggest chicken supplier to the retail sector, NDU Fresh Chicken Abattoir, has left farmers in dire straits as the troubled firm fails to pay for deliveries.

The abattoir’s director Letlatsa Kalaile told reporters last Friday that a breakdown of critical machinery as well as underhand dealings by some chicken farmers had resulted in the halting of operations.
Poultry farmers are not buying the explanation and have lodged a case with the Ministry of Small Business, accusing Kalaile of using false promises of urgent payment to take their chickens.
Some farmers said they are now living in abject poverty, having lost their investments following the abattoir’s failure to pay.

For ’Mamatela Matela, it was a baptism of fire. This was her first time supplying NDU Fresh Chicken with chickens.
Matela said she supplied the abattoir with 99 chickens in July last year and was promised payment within two weeks. Eight months on, she has not received a cent from the abattoir.
“I waited for the payment until September last year,’’ she said.
Matela said the failure to get payment for her chickens has sunk her deep into financial woes and her business is on the verge of collapse.
A company that used to supply her with chicken feed on favourable terms has cut ties and she now has to dig into personal funds to buy the feed.

Theresia Moloi, who passionately ventured into poultry business, said she met Kalaile in March 2017. He told her how his company bought chickens from farmers in bulk and paid timeously.
This kind of market assurance was irresistible to Moloi.

“We then came to an agreement that I would build the structure to raise 5 000 chickens,’’ she said.
She said she gave Kalaile M400 000 and he promised to complete roofing the structure as well as buy the feeders, drinkers and chicks.
“Until now, the housing is incomplete and the chicks are not yet here,’’ Moloi said.
Kalaile said his abattoir has helped train many farmers on how to construct chicken houses that meet accepted international standards.
He said he managed to keep “many” poultry farmers in business as he was their main customer.
“I started it in 2013 as a sole proprietor and NDU was registered as a company in 2016,’’ he said.
He said the abattoir bought assets which belong to the company and in the event that it fails to pay its suppliers “the assets that the company has can be sold to cover the costs”.

Kalaile said investors are injecting M1 million into the business so that poultry farmers can be paid upon delivery.
“For the first group of farmers that we worked with, the operation and payment were running smoothly,’’ he said.

He said they then purchased feeds worth M500 000 on credit from Lesotho Flour Mills for farmers but some of the farmers ended up selling their chickens to other abattoirs to avoid repaying the feed debt to Kalaile’s company.
This pushed the company into a financial crisis, Kalaile said.
Kalaile said the abattoir met “a lot of challenges” on the way, worsened by malfunctioning operating machine.
He estimated the abattoir’s loss at M300 000.

“We then postponed the payments to be made after two weeks,’’ he said.
Kalaile said the abattoir is currently processing the payments, albeit at a slower pace. Others are being offered chicks as payment, he said.
“We however realised that farmers are going to suffer while waiting for payments which would be processed after two months. We then decided that we should give them chicks after two weeks of chicken deliveries,’’ he said.

Despite the problems, Kalaile promised Basotho who are owed by NDU Fresh Chicken that they would get their money back.
“There is no farmer owed by NDU Fresh Chicken who will not get his or her money back,’’ he said.
“We are now in the process of selling shares to raise the money so that Basotho could be paid. We are only left with the paper work,’’ he said.
The Minister of Small Business Chalane Phori said he was approached by the poultry farmers to intervene in the saga.
The ministry invited Kalaile to give his side of the story, said the minister, adding that his ministry’s mandate is to grow small businesses.
He said Lesotho imports chicken worth M500 million per year, money that could be saved if local producers are empowered.

Refiloe Mpobole

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