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Call to probe SA's beleaguered poultry industry

Feb 01 2017 17:06

Cape Town - The Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of SA (Amie) has rejected claims that it is responsible for job losses and is now calling for an investigation into the local chicken industry.

"For as long as the local industry willfully deflects scrutiny from its own systemic problem, South Africa’s food security remains at risk. That is why I have requested that the Portfolio Committee Chair on Trade and Industry consider launching an appropriate Parliamentary inquiry into the local chicken industry," Amie CEO David Wolpert said in a statement on Wednesday.

He said he is concerned that the public has been misled in the debate surrounding the state of the local chicken industry and the jobs that the industry is shedding.  

"Worse, it is our contention that this manipulation not only serves to preserve the profits of the local industry, but also puts South Africa's food security at risk."

Local chicken producers have been complaining that EU countries and the US are dumping the pieces that are less in demand in their markets on South Africa.

Major chicken producer RCL Foods, which owns the Rainbow and Farmer Brown chicken brands, warned that it would have to let more than 1 300 farm workers go and shut down various farms in Hammarsdale in KwaZulu-Natal owing to unfavourable conditions in the industry.

"Local poultry would have the public believe that importers of chicken have been to blame for recent job losses in local industry," said Wolpert. 

Last month the government imposed a protective tariff of 13.9% on frozen chicken pieces imported from the EU. The tariff will be in force until July 3.

However, as government and chicken farmers plan to save South Africa’s poultry industry, there are calls for a higher tariff to be applied and for an extended period.

"Protectionist policies will not fix the local industry but rather paper over the cracks of their inadequate business planning and management," said Wolpert.

He claimed that the local poultry industry has led a campaign that seeks to shift blame to importers instead of focusing on their "serious and endemic problems".

Wolpert pointed out that imported poultry makes up only 14% of all the chicken consumed nationally. "This is simply too small an amount to have any serious effect on local industry."

According to him, the real challenge facing local producers relates to the high cost of feed due to the drought. However, he added that maize prices are expected to drop later this year and this will have a significant, positive impact on local producers’ profits.

"South African poultry does not have a successful export policy, which would take up the excess production capacity. The EU would be an ideal destination for duty free exports."

Wolpert said South Africans need an affordable form of quality protein and a local poultry industry that is globally competitive and a source for thousands of jobs.

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