The South African government is being lobbied by major domestic poultry firms who want far higher import duties slapped on European poultry exporters who they believe are flooding the country with cheap poultry meat.
The trade minister Rob Davies has acknowledged the concerns about so called “dumping” of cheaper cuts into Africa from Europe, following a surge of exports, particularly frozen bone-in chicken pieces from Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
South Africa imposes high import duties on countries such as Brazil and the US, where whole birds face an 82% tariff, carcases 31%, boneless cuts 12%, offal 30% and bone-In portions 37%.
However, high import duties are not applicable to imports from the European Union (EU) since South Africa has a preferential trade agreement with the EU.
A 13.9% duty on EU bone-in chicken was approved by Davies in December. However, the chief executive of the South African Poultry Association, Kevin Lovell, described this as “grossly inadequate” according to South Africa’s Business Day newspaper.
If it was not increased, the impact on the industry — which is already in the process of closing plants and retrenching workers —would be devastating, he said.
He noted that the EU supplied about 80% of all SA’s bone-in chicken imports in 2016. Of total poultry imports of about 530,000-tonnes, about 230,000-tonnes were bone-in chicken portions.
In a statement, the department of trade and industry said it had “noted the concerns raised by the poultry industry in South Africa especially in relations to the increase in imports of poultry products. The Government through the dti and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) has been working with the domestic industry to address the challenges in the industry.
“The actions vary from increase in tariffs covering a number of poultry products in line with South Africa’s international commitments, imposing trade remedies where evidence indicates dumping of poultry in the South Africa market or where there is a surge in imports.
“The dti and DAFF are further continuously working on opening new markets for our poultry exports. Recently new markets in the Middle East have been opened and present a further opportunity for export to the domestic poultry industry in South Africa. Furthermore, the dti is in the process of considering the designation of domestic poultry products for purposes of public procurement.”