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Chicken imports declined even as dumping continued

South Africa’s poultry import statistics for 2021, released this week, show a continued decline in import volumes but a slight increase in the value of poultry imports compared to 2020.

The value component is important because the steady decline in import tonnages over the past seven years could give the false impression that the threat of dumped and predatory imports is over, or nearly so.

The volume decline is significant. The 432 300 tonnes of poultry imported into South Africa in 2021 is the lowest since 2015, and well below the peak of 566 200 tonnes in 2018.

Importantly, imports of bone-in portions such as leg quarters – which have done the most damage to the South African poultry industry – dropped to 134 000 tonnes in 2021, a 12% decline from 2020, which in turn was 27% below 2019.

So is it all good news for local chicken producers? Not really. Import volumes are down, but they are still substantial and prejudicing local producers. The local industry’s application for anti-dumping duties against Brazil and four EU countries detailed the harm done to local producers by bone-in imports over the three-year period from 2017 to 2020.

And, as the application shows, imports are likely to rise again because higher tariffs are only one factor in the lower import totals. 

Trade and market disruptions caused by Covid-19 restrictions are already easing, and bird flu bans against European Union countries will eventually be lifted. When they want to get rid of their oversupply of poultry, and particularly their unwanted surplus of bone-in portions, South Africa will be an obvious market to target.

Clearly, South Africa’s fight against dumped and predatory chicken imports is far from over.

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