Can chicken importers drop insults for co-operation?

The SA Poultry Association (SAPA) has responded to what it called “an extraordinary attack” on the local poultry industry by Paul Matthew, CEO of the Association of Meat Importers and Exporters (AMIE).

In a letter in Business Day, SAPA’s Izaak Breitenbach took issue with a contention by Matthew that the government “cannot count on the commitments from local poultry producers”. Not only was this unjustified – Breitenbach listed commitments on which the industry had delivered – but it was backed by a “blatant untruth” that the poultry industry had promised government they would not raise prices.

“This is a commitment we could not and would not make, and no promise has been broken,” Breitenbach said. There were discussions on keeping price increases to a minimum, which had happened despite huge increases in input costs.

What the industry had delivered in terms of the poultry master plan was investments exceeding R1.1 billion, creating some 1 300 jobs as it expanded capacity by more than a million birds per week and export preparations were well under way. It had also expanded capacity for black farmers by nearly 10%, with more investment and job creation to come.

Breitenbach said that one area on which producers and importers agreed was the urgent need to bring down food prices by removing the 15% value added tax (VAT) from chicken. He suggested they agree on a joint proposal to submit to government.

Can AMIE switch from baseless insults to positive co-operation in the interests of consumers and the country?