Astral chairman Theuns Eloff hopes that 2024 will be a watershed year for South Africa and one in which “the inevitable political change would usher in a new phase for our democracy”.
Eloff outlined this hope in his chairman’s statement in Astral’s annual report, where he said that 2023 has been, without a doubt, the company’s most challenging year on record.
Astral posted its first-ever loss in 2023, following its debut on the stock exchange in 2001 as a spin-off from Tiger Brands.
The poultry company faced severe challenges from bird flu outbreaks and power cuts.
Unable to slaughter birds during load-shedding, Astral incurred significant costs due to ongoing feeding requirements.
Astral and the wider poultry industry suffered the worst outbreak of bird flu in South African history in 2023, costing the company R2.1 billion.
Eloff lamented the impact of load-shedding on the company’s performance, forcing “all available spend being channelled towards alternative sources of energy”.
One of Eloff’s main concerns was that the South African economy had stagnated, with negligible economic growth.
“The lack of urgently needed Government action is becoming more and more frustrating, particularly in light of the deepening energy and water crisis,” Eloff said.
“Despite numerous promises of action, very little evidence exists to support this.”
“It is, therefore, my sincere hope that 2024 will be a watershed year for this country and one in which the inevitable political change would usher in a new phase for our democracy.”
Eloff said that several surveys indicated that the ANC’s electoral support could fall below 50% and that it is clear South Africa will enter a period of coalition politics.
He urged South Africans to register and “do their democratic duty” to enact this change.
However, Eloff also warned that the country could face prolonged bouts of social instability in the build-up to the national elections next year.
“Soaring unemployment rates, deteriorating consumer spend, and a weak currency are all proving detrimental to any real growth,” Eloff wrote.
“All these macroeconomic factors, outside of management’s control, make for a bleak outlook.”
This bleak outlook is compounded by the prospect of heightened social and political instability leading up to next year’s election.
“We expect that the socio-political instability in South Africa will continue until the National Election in 2024, and possibly beyond that,” Eloff warned.