On 13 March, the poultry sector woke up to the news that the department of trade and industry (dti) announced an increase in tariffs on bone in chickens and boneless portions to 62% and 42% respectively.
According to FairPlay, a nonprofit organisation based in the US and SA, this was disappointedly not enough.
“It is, therefore, a pity that ITAC and the DTIC did not grant the full 82% tariff increases that some experts and the SA poultry industry believed it was necessary to protect the local market from the damaging impact of Brazilian chicken imports,” said Francois Baird of FairPlay.
Before the announcement, the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) was scathing in its attack on the government’s nonchalant posture to EU poultry dumping.
“SAFTU is also seeing a rising threat from the EU. Once our major supplier before bird flu bans cut its exports, EU producers are now returning to our markets, dumping and growing volumes of unhealthy parts of chicken here once again” said it’s General Secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.
The federation said chicken imports had increased by 73% over the past years, affecting more than 100 000 jobs in the poultry industry.
But the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE) vehemently dismissed FairPlay and SAFTU assertions.
“Conversely, domestic producers only produced around 1.7 million tonnes, leaving a 382-million-kilogram gap that has been filled by imports,” said its Chief Executive Officer, Paul Matthew.
SAFTU, however, refuted this claim and said that local production could be boosted to support such a gap.
AMIE in 2017 conducted its independent study on the South African broiler industry and discovered that domestic production was unlikely to “increase to meet the gap that will most likely be opened by an increase in trade protection, resulting in consumers having to pay more for chicken.”
The econometrics of chicken imports were simply not adding up, further constraining policy direction.
FairPlay protests that in 2019 South Africa paid more than R6bn to foreign chicken producers while on the other AMIE was adamant that South Africa exported 42 million kilograms of poultry products mainly to neighbouring countries.
The South African Poultry Association (SAPA) last week welcomed the announcement on “the long-awaited tariff adjustment on imported chicken from a number of countries, including Brazil”.
It said that the new tariffs published in the Government Gazette on March 13, present a measure of relief to SA’s local poultry production industry, which has suffered significant damage under a landscape that saw large-scale dumping of poultry into South Africa.