Cape Town – South Africa should not lower its standards below international norms to accommodate US poultry imports, the SA Poultry Association (Sapa) said on Wednesday.
“Lowering our standards to below international norms, having different standards for the US compared to all other importers and local producers as well as putting our human and animal health at risk in the process, is simply a price not worth paying,” Sapa CEO Kevin Lovell said in a statement.
On Monday, Minister of Trade and Industry Rob Davies informed reporters of the possible suspension of SA from the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa) and said that the move would affect the agricultural sector.
Lovell told Fin24 that the salmonella testing protocol used by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries was the main issue under dispute.
According to Lovell, the SA poultry industry was subjected to multiple tests on breeding stock, feed ingredients, farms, abattoirs, and the final product, while tests on US imports would be limited to the final product.
He said testing of the local production process delivered a wider set of results on which to base an assessment of disease incidence.
The loss of trade benefits accruing to SA’s agricultural exports to the US would be a small price to pay for animal and human health, according to Lovell.
The Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of SA (AMIE) on Tuesday criticised Sapa for its alleged “stubborn protectionism” of the local chicken industry.
According to AMIE CEO David Wolpert, Sapa played a “disproportionate” role throughout the negotiation process with the US.
“Their insistence on unreasonable and extraordinary measures to protect the uncompetitive local industry, while constantly demonising American poultry - which is already subject to more stringent testing than SA products - has come at a very high price indeed,” he said in a statement.
Dti spokesperson Sidwell Medupe told Fin24 that, while good progress was made in negotiations by the two parties, the impact of a suspension on South Africa would be “minor”.
Lovell said the likely volume drops in SA’s agricultural exports were expected to be limited.
“SA’s agricultural exports are worth around $170m, while the total Agoa related trade is around $2bn,” he said.
Politico reported on Tuesday that the US decided to put off its final decision on whether to suspend duty-free benefits for SA agricultural products under the act.
The US was still expected to make a final decision this week.