Imports from Brazil are not only killing the local industry, but could kill consumers because of salmonella risks, the body’s boss says.
The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries has been asked to ban chicken and poultry products imported from Brazil after several health risks rocked the international market.
The South African Poultry Association’s (Sapa) Izaak Breitenbach claimed its calls to have Brazilian chicken banned in South Africa was in the interests of the public, because chicken imports were not only killing the local industry, but could potentially kill consumers.
Lobbyists are pushing for importers to cough up 82% in import duties, claiming the imported chicken was being sold to local markets at too low a price for local producers to compete.
Brazil has suffered a litany of setbacks in its international poultry markets after numerous health scares in its local market, as well as corruption allegations.
In August last year, border controls in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands rejected 10 consignments of chicken from the South American country after salmonella risks were detected earlier in the year.
Last month, Brazil’s largest chicken producer, BRF SA, recalled more than 450 tons of fresh chicken, most of which was destined for international markets, after laboratory tests detected a risk of Salmonella enteritidis.
The European Union had already issued a ban on certain poultry imports from Brazil following a Brazilian police investigation into alleged bribery of health officials in the sector in 2017.
But importers have dismissed Sapa’s statements as a tactic to protect its own interests.
Paul Matthew, CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters, said the group was challenging Sapa’s application to the International Trade Administration Commission of South Africa to have government increase chicken import tariffs, and have filed submissions in this regard.
“It is ridiculous. They are asking for an 82% tariff and if they do that, it will hit the consumer. Chicken is the only protein that the SA population eats in large volumes and we import it is because local producers can’t meet the demands of the country.”
SA consume 200,000 tons of chicken a month, with 170,000 tons locally produced.
But Breitenbach said several local producers suffered losses in the past financial year as a result of the import duties being too low.
“We have an MFM duty of 12% for breast meat and 35% for bone-in meat, meaning leg quarters. We want to increase that to 82% because the imports increased over and above the tariff.”
Mooketsa Ramasodi, deputy director-general of agricultural production and health at the department of agriculture, yesterday acknowledged Sapa’s request for a ban.
“We have drawn all samples we have taken over the past year and those that don’t comply we deal with accordingly. It cannot be a blanket ban. We are dealing with every consignment as it comes, based on the risk posed.”
What salmonellosis is and how to prevent it
Salmonellosis is a disease caused by the bacteria Salmonella enterica and Salmonella bongori. Onset of symptoms occurs six to 72 hours (usually 12–36 hours) after ingestion of salmonella and illness lasts two to seven days.
Salmonellosis can be prevented by:
- Only drinking pasteurised milk;
- Cooking poultry and eggs thoroughly;
- Not eating foods containing raw eggs, such as homemade Caesar salad dressing, cookie dough and hollandaise sauce, or drinking homemade egg nog made with raw eggs;
- Handling raw eggs carefully, keeping eggs refrigerated, throwing away cracked or dirty eggs and cooking eggs thoroughly.
- Cook poultry products to an internal temperature of 170C for breast meat and 180C for thigh meat.
- Wash all food preparation surfaces and utensils that have come in contact with raw poultry or raw eggs with soap and hot water.
- Wash hands immediately after handling raw poultry or raw eggs.
- Wash hands immediately after handling reptiles or contact with pet faeces.