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LETTER: McKinney misinformed about SA poultry farmers

US agriculture undersecretary irked that SA Poultry Association instituted legal proceedings over chicken dumping in SA market

If US officials really want to boost trade with SA, they should get a better understanding of the issues.

Accusing SA poultry farmers of inefficiency is factually wrong. For US agriculture undersecretary Ted McKinney’s information, SA poultry farmers rank among the most efficient in the world. A respected agricultural research institute in the Netherlands found that out of 16 countries, SA was in the top five with the US, and ahead of Russia and every EU country.

What has irked McKinney is that the SA Poultry Association instituted legal proceedings to make the government withdraw privileged entry to the SA market of 65,000 tons a year of US chicken, granted in terms of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (Agoa). The chicken allocation was forced on the local chicken industry by the US as a condition of approval of the broader trade deal, which extended huge benefits to SA manufacturers, including the metals and motor industries.

SA has kept its side of the bargain, and allowed the US chicken in despite the damage being done to the local industry by dumped chicken imports. The court case was initiated when President Donald Trump initially refused to exclude SA from the tariffs he imposed on imported steel and aluminium. Agoa says expressly that if SA loses any of the benefits in the deal, the tariff-free chicken allocation falls away.

As Trump is reported to have relented on some categories of SA steel and aluminium, the court case may fall away. What will not go away are the job losses and misery caused by chicken dumping. Instead of attacking the SA poultry industry, McKinney and his trade mission should find ways to support it.

Francois Baird
Founder, FairPlay

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