Johannesburg - Poor South Africans would be badly affected if there was a tariff increase on chicken imports, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.
DA MP Wilmot James said chicken paste imports were currently tariff free and implementing a fee would drive the price of products such as polony and sausages up.
Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies raised the issue of the potential tariff hike at a dialogue with Western Cape farmers and commercial farming organisations on Tuesday.
Responding to a call by Grain SA officials for tariff protection in the face of increasing imports of cheap chicken from Brazil, Davies said anti-dumping duties would not solve the problem but an increase in the general tariff would.
"Come with a consistent message that [you] want to support poultry production in South Africa... [that you] want a tariff to support [it] at the expense of ever-increasing imports coming into the country... [and] you're pushing at an open door," Davies said.
James argued that local producers were misguided in their claims that imported products threatened their business.
"Statistics provided by SA Revenue Services show that poultry imports equate to only 10% of local production. Furthermore, the same statistics reveal that poultry imports are on the decline. Chicken imports are therefore hardly a credible threat to local producers," said James.
He said about a third of the country's chicken imports came in the form of a paste and were used by local manufacturers to produce polony and sausages. There was no production of the paste in the country.
James said the remaining two thirds of imported chicken consisted of leg quarters that were imported from the European Union.
He alleged that the EU's imports were more expensive than the local products and did not contain the high quantity of brine that South African manufacturers used to increase the weight of their frozen chicken pieces.
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