Chicken Industry

Chicken may be on the menu when Biden meets Ramaphosa

Chicken may be a surprise item for discussion when President Cyril Ramaphosa meets President Joe Biden in Washington next week.

Officially, the Biden invitation to the White House is about other things, such as trade and food security.

Why arrange a meeting now, when Biden is going to host 50 African leaders, including Ramaphosa, at a US-Africa summit in December?

That may be because “global challenges” are also on the agenda, which is probably a reference to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and South Africa’s refusal to back the US condemnation of Russia.

The meeting is also being seen as part of the plan to draw South Africa and other African countries closer to the US, which is worried about the increasing ties that China and Russia are forging with the continent. It follows the recent African visit by the US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who said the US wanted a “true partnership” with Africa.

So how might the lowly chicken get to be part of these elevated discussions on global politics?

The answer is that poultry issues are a very direct part of the relations between South Africa and the US, in two important ways: South Africa’s imposition of anti-dumping duties on chicken imports from the US, and the substantial US quota of chicken imports free of these duties.

The anti-dumping duties are the most immediate. They were imposed in 2000, and have been renewed regularly ever since. The SA poultry industry has until November to complete its application for a further five-year renewal.

South Africa should not be surprised if President Biden raises the issue, formally or in some informal chit-chat. Biden was for 30 years a senator for Delaware, one of the major poultry producing states in the US. He will know poultry issues and he will know that those anti-dumping duties are not popular in Delaware.

The subject may never arise, even if chicken is on the lunch menu. But President Ramaphosa needs to be briefed, just in case.