Chicken Industry

Chicken plan overdue

Ebrahim Patel must panic about the industry now, before the government shuts for the holidays.

While most South Africans are looking forward to the year-end holidays and some rest, the same cannot be said for those whose jobs depend on the chicken industry. Nor those hoping to get new jobs in an expanded industry.

The poultry sector master plan was signed on November 6 by the government, the chicken industry, unions and chicken importers. The motivation was the urgent need to save the industry and its jobs from the predations of importers bringing hundreds of thousands of tons of dumped chicken onto the local market.

One month later, nothing further has happened. The longer that continues, the happier importers will be — they don’t want the import curbs promised in the master plan, nor the tighter food safety regulations which could complicate their business.

Trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel surely realises that nothing in the master plan is more important than the need to curb the predatory imports that have cost thousands of jobs and prevented the industry expanding and creating jobs. After that, everything else falls into place — increased exports, stimulated local demand and tighter food safety regulations on the labelling of imported chicken.

The master plan promised action to curb imports “soon”. No job-creating tariffs yet, and possibly nothing over the holiday period. Puzzlingly, a completed and signed master plan is yet to be published.

Is it still in draft, with a final version yet to be published? Why the delay, and what was signed a month ago? There’s a lot of work to follow, a monitoring team to appoint and complex tasks due for completion before the end of March.

Now is the time for Patel to panic. He still has a chance, before the government shuts down for the holidays, to give the jobless some cheer.

Francois Baird. Founder, FairPlay

Read the full letter in the Business Day here.