Brussels has hit back at South African poultry processors and trade unionist claims that the EU’s “unlawful” dumping of chicken legs is to blame for a crisis that has seen jobs and profits fall dramatically.
Over 700 factory workers, trade unions and business executives protested outside the EU office in Pretoria on 1 February 2017. Carrying placards that read: “Stop EU dumping”, “We Demand Fair Play” and “No More EU Waste”, protesters want to see an end to poultry dumping. It follows a decision made by RCL Foods to axe over 1,000 jobs as chicken supply outstrips demand.
In defence of trade
The European Commission (EC) admits poultry exports to South Africa are rising, but said it is “concered” with the situation.
In December 2016, South Africa imposed safeguard duties on chicken parts imported from the EU. This came after South Africa increased imported duties on chicken by 36%. In February 2015, it hit the US, Brazil, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK with anti-dumping duties.
“Trade defence measures as such, if applied according to the WTO rules, constitute a legitimate tool to tackle unfair trade, and as such are also used by the EU,” an EC spokesman told this site.
“Current safeguard duties in South Africa do not address in our view the real causes of the difficulties of the South African poultry industry. Therefore, the Commission remains concerned by these recent measures and will continue to discuss the matter with the South African authorities to find a solution.”
The EU earlier said the problems in South Africa’s crisis-hit poultry industry relate to “internal inefficiencies”, according to RCL Foods executive Scott Pitman.
Pitman, who is managing director of RCL Foods poultry brand Rainbow Food, read out a memorandum at the February protests this week, rejecting “with contempt” EU claims that South Africa has only itself to blame for the crisis.
“The South African industry is modern, efficient, and well able to compete effectively against fair competition… No market, however efficient, can compete against dumping. If tariffs are raised, prices will be lowered to get rid of the frozen surplus,” Pitman said.
Food and Allied Workers’ Union general secretary, Katishi Masomela, and South African Poultry Association CEO Kevin Lovell signed and handed over the memorandum of protest to Massimo de Luca, head of trade for the EU in South Africa.