Are importers intentionally misleading the media?

The Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (Amie) stresses the importance of facts. They even have a subsidiary publication called “ChickenFacts”. Why then is Amie being so selective with the facts?

  • If you listened to Amie, you’d think that most, if not all, chicken imports from Brazil will be hammered with 265% duties, causing retail chicken prices to skyrocket, and that the duties on other countries could be nearly as high. That’s the picture they paint, and it’s not true.
  • If you listened to Amie, you wouldn’t know the reality that anti-dumping duties of 2% are in place against some chicken imports from Ireland, and 3% in the case of Brazil. Three other countries – Poland (lowest duty 2%) Spain and Denmark (both 7%) cannot export to South Africa at the moment, but those tariffs will come into effect if bird flu bans are lifted.
  • If you listened to Amie, you wouldn’t know that two large chicken producers in Brazil and a further two in Poland will pay no anti-dumping duties at all. That’s 0%.

What is true is that different duties are specified, producer by producer, in the countries concerned. 

  • The lowest duties (including 0% for some producers in Brazil and Poland) will apply to most chicken imports from these countries.
  • The highest rates – 265% in the case of Brazil – apply only to producers who did not engage and who in any case are unlikely to export anything at those rates. But importers don’t tell you that.
  • The impact on retail chicken prices of the duties that will apply is likely to be negligible. Importers don’t tell you that, either. They like to pretend that the “astronomical” duties will make less chicken available, and the poor will go hungry.

Importers are being selective with the facts. It is misleading.

  • They pretend that anti-dumping duties are a protectionist trade tariff when they are actually imposed to counter unfairly low prices that contravene world trade rules. 
  • They pretend that the failure to get exports booming is the fault of the poultry industry, not the government. 
  • They pretend that the local industry is not competitive, when it produces chickens cheaper than EU countries, and has consistently been ranked as one of the most competitive in the world.

FairPlay has previously taken issue with Amie executives Paul Matthew and Fred Hume over factual inaccuracies and misleading assertions. That hasn’t stopped them. Last Sunday, their colleague Georg Southey continued their campaign in an interview in the Sunday Times.

There it was again – 265% was the only rate quoted, and the interviewer seemed to think it would apply to all Brazilian bone-in imports. Well done Georg, but it’s not true.

Southey also raised the food security spectre, a favourite Amie scare tactic.  South Africa already has mass food insecurity, with millions going hungry in poor households. Negligible anti-dumping duties are not going to compound an issue that Amie should seek to counter rather than to exploit.

Food security cannot depend on imports. It must be secured through a strong, viable local poultry industry supplying a staple protein at affordable prices as it has done for decades. As the official investigation found, that industry and its jobs are threatened by the dumped imports that Amie would like to continue.

FairPlay regularly asks about importers’ “fat profits” – is it true that they buy at low dumped prices and sell high, at market-related prices, profiting comfortably off the proceeds?

Amie has never responded to the challenge, nor to the suggestion that a way to reduce prices for poor people would be for Amie to pass on to poor consumers the low prices from which importers benefit.

It would certainly make their tears about “the poorest of the poor” seem a bit more credible.

Judging by their statements, chicken importers seem likely to continue being selective about their facts. Every time they do, FairPlay will point it out. And we will keep on repeating our “fat profits” question until we get an answer.