The poultry industry master plan is the creation of a co-operative effort among all relevant industry stakeholders – the government, farmers, processors, exporters, poultry importers and unions.
Late last year when the poultry industry master plan was announced at President Cyril Ramaphosa’s investment conference in Johannesburg the plan set targets for implementation based on five pillars instrumental in refocusing and building the poultry industry. One of those pillars is the development of the necessary requirements for South Africa’s globally competitive poultry producers to pursue opportunities to build export markets.
But for this to happen South Africa has to bring its food safety and inspection requirements as well as its veterinary regulations and oversight up to international standards. Without this there can be no development of an international poultry trade for South African chicken producers and no opportunities for South Africa to export chicken products.
Under the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO) of which South Africa and 163 other countries are members, countries that export poultry or other meats are required to take sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures to protect life and health.
The WTO SPS Agreement requires that SPS measures be based on science, do not discriminate between Members where the same or similar conditions prevail, and are not a disguised restriction to international trade.
What is key to the objective of the South Africa poultry master plan to develop export markets is the fact that under WTO SPS rules the exporting country has the burden of demonstrating that its measures achieve the appropriate level of protection of the importing country.
Simply put, South Africa has some way to go in elevating its SPS and food safety standards in order to become a global exporter of poultry products. But to be fair the poultry master plan demonstrates that attitudes are changing and that there is a growing awareness in South Africa about the importance of SPS matters, in terms of increasing market access for food and agricultural products and also in terms of improving public health.
Inadequate SPS measures, not only severely reduce export capacity but also the ability to control imports. In South Africa the poultry industry master plan shows that in this regard attitudes towards capacity building are changing. The co-operative effort that has gone into the master plan development should give rise to the expectation that a new partnership can emerge between government and the private sector to address the complex issues that need to be resolved, not the least of which are limited government resources and inadequate technical capacity.