Cape Town – South Africa’s beleaguered poultry industry can be fixed, but for that to happen the European Union (EU) needs to stop flooding the country with chicken.
The SA Poultry Association (SAPA) is once again at war with cheaper imported chicken from the EU as the local industry seems to be on the verge of collapse, threatening to bleed thousands of job. Around 1 350 positions were already lost at the RCL Foods’ Hammarsdale chicken plant in KwaZulu-Natal.
“We are a cheaper producer than the EU. Period. All they need to do is stop dumping and life should return to normal,” SAPA chief executive Kevin Lovell told Fin24.
The chicken industry – workers, union leaders and executives – recently marched to the EU offices in Pretoria to demand an immediate end to chicken dumping.
Around 700 people took to the streets carrying placards that read “Stop EU dumping”, “We Demand Fair Play” and “”No More EU Waste”.
The EU accounts for some 80% of chicken pieces imported into South Africa. There is a huge surplus of chicken leg quarters in the EU because consumers there prefer chicken breasts and wings. The brown meat is disposed of as off-cuts to any market that will take it at any price the producers can get.
“About 97% of what is imported is what most people would not see as prime products. These prime products would be whole birds and breast meat,” said Lovell.
“Almost none of the imports are made for South Africa and that means that we import what people in the country of manufacture do not want to eat. Such an approach cannot deliver food security.”
Lovell said in a comparative study done by the University of Wageningen it was found that South Africa can produce a whole slaughtered chicken for less than any of the EU countries.
“As it costs more to make a piece of a chicken than a whole chicken (the extra work of cutting it up and the cutting loses that you get) it is obvious that if normal economics was at play then the EU would not be able to export to us,” he said.
“If the EU market was a balanced market and ate all of the parts of a chicken as we do in our balanced market then they would hardly have to export anything and we would not be in dire straits.”
Meanwhile, the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters of SA (Amie) 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 last week.
This article was first published on www.fin24.com on 7 February 20117