Chicken and chips

South African poultry producers will be hoping that the government views them as favourably as the potato producers who have just benefited from the imposition of anti-dumping duties on imported potato chips.

Chicken farmers have not been so fortunate. Anti-dumping duties on chicken imports from Brazil and four European Union countries were approved last August, but the government decided not to implement them for 12 months. Trade, Industry and Competition minister Ebrahim Patel said the decision was based on fears that higher duties would contribute to food price inflation.

Patel had no such concerns this month when he approved the anti-dumping duties on potato chips from Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. The move has been welcomed by South African potato producers.

In a subsequent parliamentary debate, MPs questioned the apparent contradiction on Patel’s decisions on poultry and potatoes. He replied that the government had to balance the interests of food producers and consumers, as well as the country’s “enormous” unemployment challenge.

“11-million South Africans need jobs and we’ve got to be able to do everything possible to retain those jobs. Tariffs play a role in protecting those jobs,” Patel said.

He gave no assurance that the anti-dumping duties would, in fact, be implemented this August at the end of the 12-month suspension.

Jobs are at stake in South Africa’s substantial poultry operations. Poultry is a R59 billion strategic national industry, the second largest component of the agricultural sector and a significant employer in all provinces. Its operations range from large integrated poultry producers to thousands of small-scale chicken farmer who supply mainly to informal markets.

The Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy (BFAP) says the industry has consistently provided affordable protein to South African consumers, and that its market share has grown to 66% of the country’s meat consumption.

So, chicken is a big job creator, it feeds the nation and is essential for national food security. Should be an easy decision for Minister Patel.