South Africa poultry producers push for duty protection

By Bill Corcoran

- Last updated on GMT

South Africa's chicken producers are threatened by EU imports
South Africa's chicken producers are threatened by EU imports

Related tags South african poultry International trade South africa Poultry

South Africa’s poultry industry is in crisis, according to local producers, who claim thousands of jobs will be lost because EU countries are bombarding its market with chicken pieces their own consumers do not want.  

Late last month (January) South Africa’s government subjected bone-in imported chicken to a 13.9% provisional safeguard duty until at least 3 July in a bid to stabilise the local industry and stave off major job losses in an already difficult economic climate.

Department of Trade and Industry officials told the South African parliament this week that, during this six-month period, an investigation requested by the local industry into possible dumping practices by the EU will be finalised.

South African producers are calling on the government to implement a long-standing safeguard tariff of 37% on bone-in imported chicken.

Bone-in exports

According to data compiled by the South African Poultry Association (SAPA), Europe’s bone-in chicken exports to South Africa grew from 112,928 tonnes (t) in 2012 to 187,793t in 2016, up to November.

Major South African chicken producer RCL Foods has retrenched 1,300 farm workers already, reduced production by 50% at its Hammersdale factory near Durban, and shut down farms in KwaZulu-Natal province, due to the current unfavourable industry conditions.

The company has warned that its half-year profits to December 2016 could fall by up to 50% because of over-supply on the local market. Other local chicken producers and associated unions have also said that thousands more jobs in the sector are on the line.


However, the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (Amie) of South Africa has rubbished the view that imports are undermining local poultry producers, claiming that the high costs of chicken feed, because of drought, as well as a poor export strategy were the real reasons that the industry is in crisis.

“For as long as the local industry wilfully deflects scrutiny from its own systemic problem, South Africa’s food security remains at risk,”​ Amie CEO David Wolpert said in a statement released last Wednesday (1 February).
Wolpert maintained that imported poultry only made up 14% of all the chicken consumed in South Africa and this figure was “simply too small an amount to have any serious effect on local industry”​.
With the onset of good rains in the areas previously hit by drought over the last couple of months, maize prices are expected to drop later this year by around 40%, said Wolpert, adding, “This will have a significant, positive impact on local producers’ profits.”

The European Commission has expressed concern over factory workers demonstrating on 1 February at the EU office in Pretoria over the EU's illegal 'dumping' of chicken legs on to its market.

Meanwhile, in January, SAPA said it would not lower poultry testing standards to accommodate US imports following criticisms of protectionism.

Tensions have been building between South African poultry suppliers and international importers for almost two years as the country grapples with a mounting poultry crisis​.

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