Lobby group FairPlay South Africa has called for dumping to be classified as a criminal offence.
Founder Francois Baird told representatives of the poultry industry and European Union (EU) trade representatives during a meeting last week that dumping should not only be frowned upon – but should be regarded as a criminal offence.
“We are polite but we’re feisty, and we are not going to back down. We are not against imports, we just believe the same rules must apply to everyone,” Baird said. He echoed the concerns raised by local poultry production companies such as Rainbow Foods and Country Bird Holdings who have seen the closur eof a number of poultry farms recently.
The EU has been accused of “destroying” the localindustry with its “flood of cut-price poultry exports” into South Africa.
But David Wolpert, CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of South Africa (AmieSA), disputed this. He said local chicken importers, along with the EU, were being made the scapegoat for an industry that was plagued by high poultry feed and fuel costs, as well as large labour cost increases and now, an outbreak of avian flu.
“We are not against imports, we just believe the same rules must apply to everyone” – Francois Baird
“Imports played an insignificant role in the problems of local producers,” said Wolpert. Imports of comparable poultry products represented a marginal amount of South Africa’s poultry market (or about 10% of total consumption}, while South Africa’s chicken imports from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Germany represented less than 7% market share, he added.
“We do not see this as a threat to local industr y, which should rather focus on its self-created problems as well as opportunities,” he commented.
EU counsellor for trade and economics, Dessislava Choumelo, agreed with Wolpert, reiterating that the EU wanted a 50/50 partnership with South Africa and was negotiating a possible export strategy for SA chicken to the EU with the South African poultry task team. She warned that South African producers usedthe word “dumping” too loosely.
She said that the EU, which strongly believed in the “no trash, no dumping” policy, wanted growth for South Africa aswell asfor the 28 countries in the EU.
“Using terms such as war and fighting in relation to dumping is counterproductive because no one everwins from a war.” She said South Africa was an “important regional and global partner asthe EU’s largest trading partner in Africa.
“EU poultry imported into SA is of the same high quality asthat sold in the EU. EU food law and regulations impose high standards,” said Choumelo va. The current trade relationship around poultry imports was a “winwin” solution supported by market demand and supply logic, she said.
“South African producers could attract a higher price for their breast meat in the EU and a solution to the local crisis could be achieved by growing the domestic market via exports and market accessand not by resorting to protectionist measures that would not benefit the consumers,” she said.