Higher tariffs and trade bans will not save local poultry industry

The importance of trade has to be recognised, as saving the poultry industry is not as simple as imposing higher tariffs or more trade measures, according to Garth Strachan, deputy director-general of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).


Speaking at the AVI Africa poultry conference recently held in Johannesburg, he said that South Africa had to meet its obligations to the World Trade Organization (WTO).


“Trade is complex and it is about giving and taking. We have to abide by the WTO rules, and if we apply tariffs or break rules, we will face countervailing activity by trade partners in the poultry and other sectors. We live in a global village and trade is essential for the health of the economy.”


He said that the DTI had supported tariff increases over the past decade, and would continue to support trade measures and tariffs that protected the industry from harmful import surges, especially from EU countries, but added that “tariffs cannot remain in place forever, and the industry must become more competitive and transform”.


Katishi Masemola, general secretary of the Food and Allied Workers’ Union, said the poultry industry was able to absorb skilled and unskilled workers, and could do this in semi rural and peri-urban areas, and therefore needed to be defended.


He added: “More importantly, chicken is a source of protein for the masses. Dumping is illegal and immoral and must not be allowed.


“EU exports to Ghana wiped their industry off the map.It is a reality [locally],” Masemola said.


Dr Charlotte Nkuna, senior executive at the South African Poultry Association (SAPA), denied allegations that the industry was inefficient, and said that studies had shown that the local industry was more efficient than those in Europe.


Alan Saunders, SAPA president, said there was an apparent lack of government support for the industry, and that it needed transformation.


He added that this was challenging when the industry and government were at odds. “Unlike the rest of the world, SA poultry producers don’t receive any support from government. One often wonders if there is even moral support,” Saunders said.-


By Gerhard Uys
First published in Farmers Weekly on 5th July 2017

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