Thousands of chicks die in S. Africa power crisis

STORY: At his poultry farm in South Africa's Lichtenberg, Herman du Preez is checking on the chicks he has left.

This week has seen his business devastated, he says, amid some of the worst power cuts on record.

Tens of thousands of his chicks have died, and he says they are still losing birds every day.

"I think we gonna end up round about between 40 to 50, 000 that’s gonna die at the end. We already took out more than 30,000 it's a very sad day for me today in the farm."

South Africa's power crisis means most households and businesses are without electricity for at least six hours a day, and often as many as ten.

Struggling state utility Eskom has implemented so-called "Stage 6" power cuts, known locally as load-shedding.

The chick deaths have been caused by problems with air-conditioning, du Preez says, adding that his issues started in mid-December when a faulty transformer prompted Eskom to connect the area to another line, causing voltage damage in his pumps and motors.

In addition he says he is spending about 14,000 rands a day, or over $800, running his farm with generators.

"We can't farm on diesel, it's not consistent, it's impossible. Load-shedding has an enormous amount of disruptions and negative effects on my whole operation and it's not just me – it's our whole community, it's a whole farming community."

The South African Poultry Association says that if severe outages persist, more chickens will die - affecting supply.

The industry, it warns, could be brought to its knees.

Fast-food outlets, including global franchises like KFC and Nandos, have announced temporary closes to some of their stores due to a supply crunch.

Eskom said at the start of the week that it would begin shortening power cuts but added that there remained a high degree of uncertainty.